The Dallas Mavericks, fresh off a long All-Star break, are back home at the American Airlines Center Thursday to take on the San Antonio Spurs. Dallas is hoping to regain momentum after losing three straight heading into the break.
The Mavericks are 31-29, sixth in the Western Conference, and 19-10 at home this season. The Spurs are 14-45, 14th in the West, and 5-24 on the road. This is the second meeting between the teams this season. Dallas won the last matchup 126-125. They’ll play two more times this season.
Maxi Kleber (hamstring) and Davis Bertans (calf) are out for Dallas. Former Maverick Isaiah Roby (ankle), Devin Vassell (knee), Khem Birch (knee), and Tre Jones (foot) are all out for the Spurs.
Here are three things to watch for during the game:
Protect the paint
The Mavericks are awful at defending the paint. They allow a parade to the rim every night, and the Spurs took advantage of this last game. They outscored the Mavericks 64-50 in the paint back in December. This allowed them to keep pace with a Dallas team they had no business playing competitively. It’s how a lot of lesser teams have beaten the Mavericks this season. Hopefully coach Jason Kidd and the rest of the coaching staff came up with some schemes to protect the paint, and get the Mavericks some paint buckets as well, during this long break.
The Spurs shoot the third-fewest free throws in the league. The Mavericks need to make sure they don’t give San Antonio easy points. The Spurs don’t have the talent to get to the basket and make defenses bend, but we’ve seen opponents be more aggressive than the Mavericks often this season. Dallas can’t fall into this trap and be late on rotations and foul when the Spurs do get into the paint. It’s another way the talent-poor Spurs can pull off an upset.
Disrupt passing lanes
San Antonio doesn’t do a lot of things well, but they still move the ball around the court. The Spurs are fourth in the NBA in assists per game. Sure, they’re not the Beautiful Game Spurs of 2014, but they can still whip the ball around if the Mavericks let them. Dallas needs to be acutely aware of passing lanes and use their length (looking at you, Reggie Bullock, Josh Green) to deflect passes and derail the Spurs’ offense.