After a refreshing victory over an ultra fast sinking Orlando Magic team 114–99 on Tuesday night, the Dallas Mavericks hit the road for a rare home and road back-to-back. The 14–28 Mavericks will travel Charlotte to take on the 15–23 Hornets tonight at 7 pm (EST) at the Spectrum Center.
The matchup will be the first of two between the teams this season. Last season, the Hornets got the better of the Mavericks sweeping the season series in early December. Both games were very competitive, but late runs by the Hornets ultimately decided both games.
Looking at this year, both teams have combined to win just 35 percent of their games at 19–54 overall. Records aside, both teams pass the “eye test” as of late. The Mavericks snapped a recent three-game skid with their win last night, before the quick three-game losing streak the Mavericks had won four straight games. The Hornets are coming off an impressive 3–1 California road trip, including an impressive victory at Oracle Arena against the Warriors. The Hornets team leader and all-star point guard, Kemba Walker feels the team is finally getting into a nice rhythm. He told the Charlotte Observer, “Some teams just take longer to really gell. That’s how it was for us – to really get used to each other. Now, we’re in a good groove, and hopefully, maintain that.”
To get you primed up for tonight’s contest let’s run through the position-by-position matchups.
*Please note these are the probable starters via NBA media game notes.
Spread: Hornets -7
Over / Under: 209
Dennis Smith Jr. | 6-4 | 1st Season | Age: 20.1
Kemba Walker | 6-1 | 7th Season | Age: 27.5
The Hornets season has been defined by the play of Kemba Walker. It really is a tale of two teams — Team 1 with Kemba on the court & Team 2 with Kemba on the bench. In the 1,244 minutes in which Walker has been on the court this season, the Hornets sport a plus-5.1 net rating. Conversely, when the Hornets take Kemba off the floor the team becomes one of the worst teams in the N.B.A. During the 590 minutes in which Walker has been on the bench this season, the Hornets have posted a net rating of minus-13.1. Their offensive production dips from 108.8 with Kemba which would rank 6th in the N.B.A. all the way down to 93.3 which is 7 points per-100 possessions below the 30th ranked Kings at 103.3. Yikes!
Walker averages a shade of 34 minutes per-game, it will be imperative that the Mavericks get solid play out of whatever units they have on the floor whenever Walker is out. The Hornets lack a legitimate backup point guard. The best option that they can throw at the Mavericks is to play big and slide the versatile Nicolas Batum over the point.
Homecoming for DSJ! Smith brings elite athleticism to the point guard position. He is averaging 14 points, 4.5 assists, and 4.1 rebounds in 27.8 minutes per game. Like most rookie point guards in the N.B.A. Smith’s defense is a long way away from being respectable. Expect the Hornets interim head coach Stephen Silas to run DSJ through multiple pick-and-rolls.
Advantage: Signifciant Edge Hornets
Wesley Matthews | 6-5 | 9th Season | Age: 31.2
Nicolas Batum | 6-8 | 10th Season | Age: 29.0
Wes Matthews has on fire to begin the new year. In 4 games thus far in January, the Ironman is averaging 19.0 points and shooting 53.8 percent from 3 on 26 attempts. When Matthews has been on the court this month, the Mavericks have a 132 offensive rating. Matthews has been the driving force for the Mavericks fair play as of late.
Nicolas Batum missed the first 12 games of the season with a left sprain elbow. He’s had a subpar season, especially relative to his salary with the Hornets paying him $20.8 Million this season. Through 24 games he is averaging 10.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 4.9 assists in 30.8 minutes per game. He’s struggled drastically from the 3-point line shooting just 28 percent. Silas needs to do a better job at staggering Batum and Walkers minutes. When Batum is out on the court with Walker sitting the Hornets have a minus-2.0 net rating which is a lot more respectable. If Silas can find a way for Batum to run the backup point guard rather than Michael Carter-Williams, the Hornets could sustain a respectable offense in the 14 minutes per game that Walker is off the court per-game.
Advantage: Slight edge Mavericks
Harrison Barnes | 6-8 | 6th Season | Age: 25.6
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist | 6-7 | 6th Season | Age: 24.2
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Harrison Barnes were both top 7 picks in the 2012 NBA draft. Kidd-Gilchrist is the younger of the two, leaving Kentucky after his freshman season. He has battled injuries throughout his career averaging just 56 games per-season coming into this years campaign. In seven career games against Dallas, MKG is averaging 12.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 1.3 assists in 28.8 minutes-per-game. He is a fierce hardnose defender. He’ll undoubtedly make Barnes job difficult tonight.
Harrison Barnes is Mr. Consistent for the Mavericks. You know what you are going to get night-in-and-night-out with Barnes. He brings a calming level of stability to a team that has been very inconsistent this season. For the season he is averaging 18.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 2.2 assists in 34.8 minutes-per-game. He is shooting 35 percent from 3 and 45 percent from the field. Barnes has improved on the glass this season bumping his defensive rebounding percentage up from 13.1 last season to 18.3 this season. Overall, Barnes is going to bring it every night and that kind of consistency is beneficial to this Mavericks teams.
Advantage: Moderate Edge Mavs
Maxi Kleber | 6-11 | 1st Season | Age: 25.9
Marvin Williams | 6-9 | 13th Season | Age: 31.5
Did you know that Marvin Williams full name is Marvin Gaye Williams Jr? 1 The 13-year veteran is your prototypical stretch 4 in today’s N.B.A. For the season Williams is shooting a career-high 42.9 percent on 3.5 attempts per-game from 3. His per-game minutes have dropped this season to 25.7 from 30.2 last season. Charlotte has been playing Frank Kaminsky at the power forward as well which have dug into Williams’ time. The Mavs needs to run Williams off the 3-point line and make him beat them off the dribble. If they can to do that, they’ll have an advantage in this matchup.
Kleber is coming off the best month of his young career. In December the young German started all 16 games, averaging a career-high 23.5 minutes. He posted career-high totals in December averaging 7.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks in those 16 games. He is a very versatile defender that gives the Mavs flexibility on the defensive side of the ball. The Mavericks have been much more productive starting Kleber at the 4, moving Barnes to the 3 to begin games.
Advantage: Slight Edge Hornets
Dirk Nowitzki | 7-0 | 20th Season | Age: 39.5
Dwight Howard | 6-11 | 14th Season | Age: 32.0
Dirk has shown flashing of his old self as of late. He has scored 18+ points in 7 of the last 14 games. For the season Dirk is shooting 42 percent from 3 on 3.9 attempts on a game. As everyone already knows, Dirk is a liability on the defensive end, but his mere presence on the court gives the Mavericks optimal spacing. He and Dennis Smith Jr. are getting more and more comfortable running the high 1-5 pick-and-roll together. The tall baller from the G is going to be challenged on the glass thanks to Dwight Howard’s massive frame. If he can hit some shots on the offensive end, look for the Hornets to slide Kaminsky to center to guard Dirk.
Dwight Howard is a double-double machine. He has posted 21 double-doubles this season which ranks 8th in the N.B.A. For the season he is averaging 15.7 points, 12.1 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 29 minutes-per-game. In the Hornets 15 wins, Dwight has been an offensive threat averaging 18.3 points during those wins. In the 23 games that the Hornets have lost, Dwight is averaging 14.0 points per contest. Limiting Dwight’s offensive production will go a long way in determining the outcome of the game.
Advantage: Moderate Edge Hornets
Dallas’ bench has been productive all season. J.J. Barea and Dwight Powell are having their most prolific seasons of their careers. The Mavericks hit their opponents with an array of guards (Barea, Ferrell, and Harris) with a rim-running big in Powell and Mejri. They work well as a collective unit on both ends of the floor. The Mavericks bench averages 38.8 points-per-game which ranks 11th in the N.B.A. Charlotte is 15th in the league at 37.4 points. Two players to watch from the Hornets bench is big man Frank Kaminsky and guard Jeremy Lamb. Both players can make their presence felt out on the court coming off the bench.
Advantage: Moderate Edge Mavericks
Prediction: 105-97 Hornets. Mavs gassed due to the rare home-road back-to-back.
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