The last time the two teams met, the Mavs won 107-82 in Dallas, the Mavs’ largest margin of victory of the season. But times are quite different. The year is now 2017, Dirk has gone from being injured to being a starter and Bogut has gone from being a starter to being injured.
Then again, some things never change. Predictably, Rajon Rondo has not thrived as a running mate to Dwayne Wade. Rondo was benched for five straight DNP-CDs before resurfacing four games ago as Michael Carter-Williams’ backup.
Here are the keys to tonight’s game:
Stop or slow down Jimmy Butler
This is a long shot as Jimmy Butler has taken his game to MVP top-five-vote levels, towering over just about everybody in the East. But if the Mavs can do it... this game gets a lot easier.
In January alone, Butler has averaged 27 points, eight rebounds, and five assists with two steals per game, all while shooting 45 percent from the field and absolutely anchoring the Bulls at 38 minutes per game. In fact, Butler’s plus-minus leads the Eastern Conference.
However, he’s just come back from an illness and hasn’t been shooting the ball quite as well as before. It’ll likely be a team effort with a bunch of guys getting a shot at him and giving him different looks.
Spread the ball around
Now that the older Dallas scorers (Dirk, Deron, JJB, Devin) have gotten their health and their shots back, the Mavs are no longer handing it off to Harrison Barnes to ISO out their offense. With three or four guys with a legitimate chance of leading the team in scoring every night, the Mavs are able to spread the wealth and share the scoring load. As a matter of fact, there have been three leading scorers (Matthews with 19, Williams with 23, and Barnes with 30) in the last three games. And let’s not forget about Dirk’s contributions.
Keep knocking it from deep
The Mavericks have been red hot from deep in the new year with Barnes, Dirk, Williams and Seth Curry collectively making 47 percent of their three-point attempts despite each averaging three or more three-point attempts per game. The starters are getting both efficiency and volume.
The last remaining starter, Matthews, is still making a respectable 37 percent at six trey attempts per game and as a result, since the calendar turned, the Mavericks are shooting 40 percent from three and are third in the league in threes made per game. Let’s keep it up, Mavs.
How to watch
Tip off is at 7:00pm Central on FSSW or on NBA League Pass.