The Dallas Mavericks are at a low point and the season is only five games old. They’ve lost each of those games, a franchise worst to start the season. To compound matters, the team is already missing Devin Harris and has several players playing through lingering injuries. Further adding to their woes, the team announced Friday night that Dirk Nowitzki will be sidelined for at least a week in an attempt to heal a nagging Achilles injury.
It might not be the worst of times but it’s nothing to smile about. So, the Mavs will look to notch their first win of the season Sunday night as they welcome the Milwaukee Bucks to Dallas.
Milwaukee is a young, long, and athletic team and have a top-10 offense. With all the injuries that are plaguing Dallas, getting their first win won’t be easy. However, if they do the following, they have a chance to take down the Bucks.
Take advantage of the Bucks being on a back-to-back
Milwaukee played Sacramento at home on Saturday before traveling to Dallas. This will be a tired team. With Dirk out, the Mavs will play a smaller lineup throughout the game. Dallas needs to push the pace and get out and run. The Mavs are one of the slowest teams in the league in terms of pace but this is not the time to slow it down. They have to push the ball and get out in transition after defensive stops rather than settling for halfcourt sets. Even though the Bucks are young, a back-to-back involving travel will wear on them.
Slow down Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker
I don’t think there is any way that the Mavs can stop either of the Bucks’ best players, but they can slow them down. Harrison Barnes will likely be called upon to guard both of them throughout the game, though Wesley Matthews and Justin Anderson will also get their opportunities. Dwight Powell could also see time defending Parker. Yet, that’s not a matchup that will likely work in the Mavs’ favor.
Antetokounmpo poses the biggest matchup problem for Dallas. He’s listed as a shooting guard but is 6-11. Dallas might to have to hide J.J. Barea defensively throughout this game when Antetokounmpo is on the floor. If he’s alongside Deron Williams, Barea will probably matchup with Matthew Dellavedova in a rivalry that will draw the ire of many on Twitter. In this scenario, Williams will likely shift over and guard Tony Snell, leaving either the undersized Matthews or Barnes to deal with Antetokounmpo.
It’s going to be tough but slowing both Antetokounmpo and Parker down is imperative.
Get Matthews going offensively
This hasn’t been the best start for Matthews on offense. He’s shooting just 30 percent on the season and 25 percent from behind the arc. For the most part, he’s getting good looks, especially when he’s not forcing a shot after posting up a smaller defender. At some point, something has to give and his shot will start falling. At least that’s the hope. Hopefully, this is the game that his shot starts finding the bottom of the nylon.
Is this a "must win game" for the Mavs? I’m not sure. But it’s one that they can certainly steal and one that they could stand to win for moral purposes at the very least. Here’s hoping that they can put it all together, overcome their injuries, and find the win column.
How to watchT
The game will be on Fox Sports Southwest in the DFW area or NBA TV otherwise. Tip off is at 6:00 p.m. Central.