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Mavericks vs. Pacers Preview: 3 things to watch as Dallas takes on Indiana

Old friend Rick Carlisle will face a Maverick’s team he doesn’t recognize

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas will try to steady the ship at home against the Pacers and old friend Rick Carlisle after surrendering a 27-point lead in a loss to the Lakers, the worst in the league this year.

There’s plenty of blame to go around for how that game went, but hopefully Kyrie Irving in particular can bounce back from what was his first real stinker of a game in a Dallas uniform.

The Pacers, for their part, aren’t exactly setting the world on fire either. Just 3-7 over the last 10 and a 9-20 record on the road this year, if you were to handpick a team to get their mind right against, you could do a lot worse than the Pacers. The West remains up for grabs as teams crowd together for seeds two through 10, but if the Mavs want to retain any hope of finishing as strong as they did last season, they need to start seizing on these opportunities.

To the max

The expectation is that forward Maxi Kleber, out with a hamstring tear since December, will return to the floor against Indiana. It’s highly unlikely that he’ll step right back into the role he had pre-injury, both in terms of playing time and impact, but the minutes he’s out there will be a good indication of what we can expect from a fully healthy Dallas Maverick rotation.

It’s not fair to expect Maxi Kleber to be the end-all-be-all defender for Dallas, especially in the paint, but the Mavericks have been so atrocious on the defensive side of the ball, that any help at all in that arena could soothe some of their worst sore spots.

Picking poison

It’s no secret that Dallas has been just god-awful at defending the paint of late. Over the last 10 games, teams are shooting 73.5% in the restricted area and 54.1% in the paint, both are the worst numbers in the league. It’s been a big driver of the 1-3 record in the Luka Doncic/Kyrie Irving era, but would you believe it could be way worse?

Over the last 10 games, opponents have shot a league-worst 30.3% from three, so if anything, Dallas has been getting some lucky shooting variation, even as they’re giving up free all-you-can-score layups. Indiana is shooting 37.5% from three over that same span, so Dallas will have to either step up the defensive energy or hope to continue to get lucky. They’re fortunate to be in the middle of a long home stand, so hopefully, all the time saved on travel can be used to iron out this new roster, especially on defense.

Ready to run

Indiana may not have a great record over the last 10, but it’s not for last of energy. They lead the league in fast break points per game with just a skosh under 20. Considering they’re scoring just 114 total points per game, it’s a not-insignificant source of offense for this squad. A Rick Carlisle team pushing the pace; who would’ve thought?

It seems like the perfect squad to, say, take advantage of a team with only four defenders running back because their fifth guy is complaining to a ref about a no-call on the other end of the floor… the Mavericks, and Luka Doncic, can’t let that happen. They’ve got too many other defensive holes that need plugging to be giving away easy buckets in transition.

How to watch

You can broadcast or stream the game on Bally Sports at 7:30 CST.