The Dallas Mavericks will welcome the Minnesota Timberwolves to the American Airlines Center for a Sunday night tilt; this is the third time the two teams will match up this season. Minnesota took the first two games, so Dallas will be looking for a bit of payback.
Unfortunately, the Mavericks won’t have the entire cavalry for this battle. Dereck Lively II looks likely to miss his second consecutive game with a re-aggravated ankle sprain. Dante Exum is out with plantar fascia. Luka Doncic, Grant Williams, Richaun Holmes, and Markieff Morris are all questionable. We’ll see who suits up, but the Mavericks are sure to be shorthanded.
Will the guys who play be up to the herculean task of taking down the West’s best? Here are three things to watch for as we await the answer to that question.
The Kyrie effect
The first two times Dallas and Minnesota squared off this season, Kyrie Irving was on the shelf with a bruised heel. Having him back in the lineup should be a huge shot in the arm for this matchup. When Minnesota last came to town on December 14th, Luka Doncic was brilliant, scoring 39 efficient points and dishing out 13 assists. Unfortunately, no one was able to support him in an 18-point loss. Having the threat of Kyrie Irving on the floor should open up a lot of things for the Dallas offense that weren’t there in previous matchups. If he and Doncic both play, the Mavericks have a chance against anyone, no matter who else is out of the lineup.
What do they do with the center minutes?
Minnesota’s size and skill at the center position is a problem for Dallas, even with Lively II in the lineup. Naz Reid, Minnesota’s super sub off the bench, torched the Mavericks for 27 points and seven threes made in the December 14th game. Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns combined to average 29.5 points and 24 rebounds in the previous two contests against Dallas. Simply put, this is a matchup nightmare. With Lively on the shelf and Richaun Holmes questionable, things look a bit scary. Dwight Powell can’t play 40 minutes, and if he does, things won’t go well. Dallas likes to play Grant Williams as a small-ball center, but he may be unavailable. Will they run Derrick Jones Jr. at the five more? Does O-MAX get minutes? It seems as though the only hope for Dallas is to play small, a dangerous proposition against this large Wolves team.
Live and die by the three
It’s been said ad nauseam, but this Dallas team goes as their three-point shooting goes. In the first two games against Minnesota, Dallas got outshot from behind the line 31-21. That 30-point difference is almost identical to the total margin of victory for the Timberwolves in those games (+26). With Minnesota sure to dominate Dallas on the boards and in the paint, the Mavericks must hit more threes than the Wolves to have any chance of winning. I said the same thing the last time I previewed a Mavs-Wolves matchup, and it bears repeating because that is the only path to victory.
How to watch
Dallas and Minnesota will tip off early at 6:30 PM CST. The game will be broadcast on Bally Sports Southwest.