Dallas is on perhaps the most unlikely win “streak” it’s been on all season (if you can call two wins a streak). Not impressive in terms of quantity, but by context. After starting 0-7 in games without Luka, Dallas has now rattled off three in a row against solid teams, and only had the benefit of new addition Kyrie Irving for two of them.
After a deadline where, with the exception of the aforementioned Irving, the Mavericks stood pat, Dallas will try to keep the winning ways going and may yet still get to see Luka play with Kyrie on this second night of a back-to-back
This season has been a breakout for Sacramento, one spot ahead of Dallas in the West and coming off a pair of easy wins against the lowly Houston Rockets before losing to Dallas on Friday night. They’re led by De’Aaron Fox who was named as an injury-replacement All-Star, and Domantas Sabonis is having a strong season, as he’s third in the league in triple-doubles with six. Shy of Luka Doncic’s 10 and Nikola Jokic’s eye-watering 19.
These are two teams trying to separate themselves from the flotsam of the packed West, and with the standing so close, every game matters in the back half of the season.
Who is this Dallas team? With Luka sidelined the last three games, they’ve led the NBA in fastbreak points (25.5 points per game in the first two). That’s an insane pivot from their typical offense, which generated the fewest fastbreak points in the league with just 10.2.
It’s admirable that the Dallas players and coaching staff aren’t content to simply run the same system out there regardless of personnel but to play to the strengths of each lineup.
With Doncic, there’s no question that allowing him to be methodical in the half-court and pick apart opposing defenses is a strength, but without him, they’re not simply attempting to do their best Luka Doncic impression. They’re getting guys like Josh Green, Jaden Hardy, and now Kyrie Irving to push the pace and catch teams by surprise.
Get comfy down low
Speaking of playing to your strengths, there’s also something to be said about playing to your opponents weaknesses. While there’s always some shooting variance involved, Sacramento thus far this season has done an admirable job of defending against one of Dallas’ favorite shots: the corner three. Teams have shot just a hair under 35% against Sacramento from the corners, the second-best mark in the league. However, while the Kings seem to make a point to defend the arc, it costs them inside.
Over the last 10 games, teams are scoring 58 points in the paint against the Kings. Only San Antonio ranks worse. So if the shots aren’t falling from outside, they should look for big contributions from guys like Green, Christian Wood, and Dwight Powell who all have a nose for scoring around the basket.
After three big games from Josh Green as the lead 3&D player, especially with Dorian Finney-Smith now a former Maverick, Head Coach is already getting asked about inserting the Aussie into the starting five. His play has certainly earned it. Maverick Governor Mark Cuban went so far as to say that Green’s current level of play is at “an all-star level.”
The problem is, the obvious candidate to move to the bench is Tim Hardaway Jr, and Tim Hardaway Jr. hates coming off the bench. He won’t say as much - he’s always been outwardly willing to do whatever the team has asked of him, but his numbers speak for themselves. As a starter this year, Hardaway is shooting roughly 38% from deep - his primary role. Off the bench, a huge dropoff all the way to 29%. It’s not just three-point shooting, though. His offensive numbers are down across the board when he moves to the bench, and that’s not a fluke from this season, it’s been that way for his whole tenure in Dallas.
For a guy whose main role is to provide shooting, how can you justify putting him in a position where his numbers suffer so greatly? That’ll be something to watch for in this game and moving forward as Kidd puts the pieces of this shaken-up roster together.
How to watch
You can broadcast or stream the game on Bally Sports at 9:00 CST.