For the second time in four days, the Mavericks will face the Charlotte Hornets. The Hornets got the best of the Mavericks in a hard-fought game last Thursday, but this time around, Dallas is riding high on a fantastic win over the Chicago Bulls, while Charlotte lost its Saturday match to the Minnesota Timberwolves in overtime.
The Mavericks will still be missing several players, including Dirk Nowitzki and J.J. Barea, but they just pulled off a win over one of the better teams in the league without those guys. So what do they need to do to make it happen again?
Keep improving the offense
Generally speaking, the Mavericks have looked their best when games have come down to defense. Not so against the Bulls on Saturday! The Mavs had one of their highest-scoring games of the season, racking up 107 points against Chicago. The Bulls are a nearly top-tier team in both offense and defense (11th in both categories), and while it’s impressive that the Mavericks’ defense is continuing to improve (they limited Chicago to just 82 points), it’s an even better sign that the Dallas offense is starting to improve.
The Mavericks looked pretty dismal on offense at the beginning of the season, but recently they’ve started to look at times like an actual NBA offense. This is reflected in improved shooting numbers from guys like Wesley Matthews, but it’s also starting to show in other ways. Dallas’ shooting numbers against the Bulls were good, 46 percent overall and 42 percent from three, but they recorded 31 assists that night, their highest this season.
The Mavericks had a rough shooting night against Charlotte last week and still lost in a close game. If they can continue to have things click a little better offensively, they may be able to take this one.
Contributions from the bench
Missing key players for long stretches of time is tough. Not only are you at a disadvantage during their absence, it can also take some time for them to get back into form once they start playing again. Slowly but surely, the starters who’ve missed time due to injury are starting to come back and starting to have a real impact. Wes Matthews seems to be out of his shooting slump, Deron Williams plays an important role even on nights when he struggles to score (he had 15 assists against Chicago).
But even as the veterans are contributing more and more, the Mavs’ bench can still be streaky. If they can get the sort of performance from their starters that they saw against the Bulls but also a solid contribution from less consistent guys like Jonathan Gibson, that bodes well for the Mavs.
Disrupt Charlotte’s offense
The Mavericks kept their last game against the Hornets close despite a poor shooting night in part because they were able to slow down Charlotte’s offense. The Hornets took significantly fewer shots than they normally do and were particularly bad from the three-point line. Charlotte didn’t shoot quite as efficiently from deep as they normally do, but the real difference came in the decrease in the number of shots taken from behind the arc. Perimeter defense has been tough for the Mavericks this season, but attempting to repeat this aspect of their performance from Thursday will be key to notching a win.
How to watch
Tonight’s game tips off at 7:30pm Central on Fox Sports Southwest and on NBA League Pass.