The Dallas Mavericks will host the Portland Trail Blazers Wednesday night in Dallas as they try to bounce back from a deflating loss against the Utah Jazz Sunday. This will be the first of two consecutive games against the Blazers. Most often, teams will split these double-header style series. But the Mavericks need to win both games, as their schedule gets a bit tougher over the next couple weeks.
This is the first of seven straight games at home for Dallas. They’ve been surprisingly mediocre at home, just 8-7 on the year. Portland is bad on the road, because, well, they’re bad, just 4-12 away from the friendly confines of Oregon. They’re scuffling, too, winning just three of their last 12 games. The Mavericks need to win both these games, and to do that, they’ve got to win the first.
Here are three things to watch for during the game:
Can the Mavericks regain their chemistry?
Dallas was rolling early in the season, albeit against some weak competition. But that doesn’t matter, you play whoever is on the schedule, and good teams beat bad teams often. Lately, though, the Mavericks have been inconsistent, losing games against inferior opponents (the Jazz) and championship contenders alike. A lot of that has to do with the amount of injuries they’ve faced recently.
They’re starting to get some players back, though, like Kyrie Irving and Josh Green. But you can tell things didn’t pick right back up where they left off. The Mavericks will have to figure out a way to get everyone on the same page again, and do it quickly, because again, their schedule isn’t getting any easier. There’s almost no time for practice in the NBA, so they’re going to have to do it on the court during games. A tanking Portland team is a good place to start.
Clean that glass
The Blazers don’t do much of anything well, hence the terrible record. But one of their strengths is crashing the offensive glass. They grab 12.6 offensive rebounds per game, sixth in the NBA. And they’re less than a rebound from being number one. The Mavericks, meanwhile, are only 20th, at 10.3 per game. It’s been a problem for them all season, and they have a tendency to give up second-chance points that can give lesser opponents the ability to stay in the game. Dereck Lively II will obviously play a big part in keeping the Blazers off the glass, but the rest of the team has to be aggressive when it comes to rebounding.
Don’t count on 3-pointers
The Blazers have the best 3-point defense in the league, allowing opponents to shoot only 33 percent from deep this season. 3-point shooting defense is, as far as most analysts can tell, random, but Portland is doing something right here. They only allow eight corner 3-pointers per game, ninth in the NBA. Corner three’s are the easiest shots to hit from behind the arc, so limiting opponents attempts there keeps the 3-point scoring down.
The interesting thing is that the Blazers don’t force a lot of above the break three’s, either. Opponents just kind of march to the rim on them, where they shoot 71 percent in the restricted area, 29th in the league (the Mavericks, are, uhh, 30th, allowing 71.3 percent at the rim). So Dallas should simply attack the basket and forget about the possible 3-point variance that would allow the Blazers to steal this game. The Mavericks are 28th in the league at attempts in the restricted area, unfortunately, so they’ll have to change up their habits a bit and get to the rim in order to take advantage of Portland’s weak interior defense.
How to watch
The game tips off at 7:30 p.m. CST on Bally Sports Southwest and on NBA League Pass.