Keep it on the D/L, but the Mavs may be getting ready to make a run here.
After a dreadful, injury-plagued start to the 2016-17 season (adding to the already lengthy list of reasons 2016 was just the worst year), the Dallas Mavericks have won four of their last seven. That might not sound all that impressive until you remember they’ve won just 11 of 35 games overall.
Having toughed it out through a pretty gruesome schedule, the Mavs might find January more enjoyable, with two games apiece against the Suns and Timberwolves, plus matchups with the Heat, Knicks and Lakers (who Dallas walloped last Thursday).
Starting off that fun stretch will be Phoenix, who come to town this Thursday with an 11-25 record and an offense that hasn’t topped 100 in six games.
Youth in revolt
Phoenix is one of the younger teams Dallas will face this year; their power forward rotation consists of a pair of 19-year-olds, their second leading scorer is only 20, and their other top five scorers are 27, 23, 25, and 23. The veteran influence comes in the form of ex-Mav Tyson Chandler, prodigal son returned Jared Dudley, and prodigal son about to leave P.J. Tucker (if you believe the rumors at the moment).
Dallas tends to fare pretty well against clubs with so much inexperience, especially when they can take advantage of mistakes in the backcourt. If Brandon Knight remains out with the wrist injury that sidelined him Tuesday, then Phoenix will have to lean even more heavily on their young guards.
Who play at center for Big D?
I already mentioned the return of Tyson Chandler, who was once, twice, but probably not three times a Maverick. Will Dallas go to the lineup that worked against Washington, with Dirk at the 5 checking his former frontcourt mate? Or, will this be one of those games where Bogut gets the nod and Dirk gets to try and slow down rookie 4-man Marquese Chriss? My total guess would be the former, though the reason probably revolves less around Dirk at center and more around Harrison Barnes, who has looked too good at power forward to mess with, honestly.
Get ready to run
No matter who gets sent out there, chances are they’ll need to do some extra sprints in practice, because the Phoenix Suns are the second-fastest paced team in the league. They’re not particularly efficient, and their play style results in a fair share of turnovers, but they have the pieces to move up and down the court quickly. Given that both clubs are in the bottom quarter of the league in defensive rating, as well, I have a hunch Dallas will continue its recent run of participating in high-scoring affairs, which could make for a fun game, if not exactly a playoff preview.
How to watch
Tip-off is at 7:30pm Central, and the game can be viewed on FSSW or via League Pass. Enjoy!