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The Matchups: Dallas Mavericks vs. Indiana Pacers

The Matchups: Dallas Mavericks vs. Indiana Pacers

The Mavs enter tonight’s matchup in Indianapolis with some momentum after last night’s 98-93 win over the Toronto Raptors. They will look to improve upon their ghastly 2-14 road record against a Pacers team that currently sits in the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference at 19–15.

Going into tonight’s game the Pacers rank 7th in scoring at 107.9 points per game. They have been the best team in the NBA in 3-point accuracy, converting 38.7 percent of their attempts this season. They did throw up a dud of a game last night in Detroit, losing to the Pistons 107-83. Could that continue tonight against the Mavericks?

The Mavericks have been an odd team all season. Although they are just 10-25 on the year, the Mavericks have improved their defense steadily, yielding 102.9 points per game which ranks 10th in the NBA. The Mavs are in the middle of the pack tied for (15th) in defending the 3–point shot, holding their opponents to 36 percent from behind the arc.

Last year’s December 9th victory snapped a 5-game losing streak versus Indiana. The Pacers have won three straight and five of six over Dallas at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

To get you prepared for tonight’s game, let’s go through the matchups.

*Please note these are the probable starters via NBA media game notes. Synergy stats are up-to-date through 12/26.

Spread: Pacers -5.5
Over / Under: 206

Point Guard
Dennis Smith Jr. (6–3, 195, Rookie) vs. Darren Collison (6–0, 175, 9th Year)

Darren Collison, the former Maverick, is having a very similar season to his lone campaign with Dallas back during the 2012–2013 season. [note] Collison started 47 of 81 games for the 41-41 Mavericks team that failed to make the playoffs. He averaged 12.0 points, 5.1 assists, and 2.7 rebounds over 29.3 minutes per game. [/note] The 9-year veteran is currently averaging 12 points, 5.8 assists, and 3.0 rebounds over 30.3 minutes per game. He is having his most effective season in terms of taking care of the ball averaging just 1.4 turnovers per contest. He has the third best assist-to-turnover ratio in the NBA at 4.22.

Collison has been ultra-efficient as the lead pick-and-roll ball handler, ranking in the 83rd percentile with 0.956 points-per-possessions when running the pick-and-roll, per Synergy Sports. Over 59 percent of Collison’s possessions are either as a pick-and-roll ball handler or in transition. Collison has also been very good this season in spot-up situations, scoring 81 points in 70 possessions which have accounted for 18 percent of his possessions. For the season Collison is shooting 41 percent from 3 on just over 3 attempts per-game.

Collison’s shot chart has looked a little different this season compared to years past. He has cut out the short mid-range (outside of 4 feet but inside of 14 feet) shot out of his arsenal. Just 7 percent of his shot attempts are within 4 to 14 feet, per Cleaning the Glass. That mark is down from 14 percent last season with Sacramento. Additionally this season, Collison is shooting a very inefficient 20 percent mark from that short mid-range. The Mavericks may want to try to coax Collison into that particular part of the court to see if he continues to be unproductive from that area. The Mavericks did a wonderful job last night at defending the painted area as they baited the Raptors into taking 28 percent of their shots within the 4-14 foot range in which they converted at just 29.6 percent from that area.

Thanks to the emergence of Indiana’s star shooting guard, Victor Oladipo, Collison’s usage has dipped and he is not asked to do as much in terms of ball-handling duties. He certainly has the ability to take care of the ball and can hurt the Mavericks with his range from behind the 3-point line. The majority of the defensive gameplan will be spent on Victor Oladipo and Myles Turner —  the Mavs must make sure they keep Collison in check.

Smith is back in the lineup after missing 6 games with a strained left hip. During the month of December Smith is averaging 11.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 3.7 assists on 25.1 minutes per game. Smith has struggled to execute in back-to-backs averaging just 10.6 points, 3.6 assists, and 4.0 rebounds on 33 percent shooting in 5 games coming off zero days of rest. Despite shooting just 3 of 14 in 26 minutes of action last night against Toronto, Head Coach Rick Carlisle praised Dennis Smith Jr., telling the media, “tonight convinced me that this kid is going to be a great player.” Carlisle also added, “the defense was great I thought the whole night. I thought the two guys that were the engine for the win were Smith and Matthews.”

Advantage: Slight edge Pacers

Shooting Guard
Wesley Matthews (6–5, 220, 9th Year) vs. Victor Oladipo (6–4, 210, 5th Year)

Victor Oladipo has changed his career in Indiana. During his first year as a Pacer, Oladipo has established himself as the clear front-runner for the NBA’s Most Improved Player of the Year award. The 25-year-old is averaging 24.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists on 48 percent shooting in 34.4 minutes per game. Oladipo has increased his per-game shot totals from 13.9 last season in Oklahoma City to 18.4 this season in Indiana. His 3-point shooting has jumped up this season as he is hitting 2.7 3s on 6.5 attempts at 42 percent. He can explode for 40+ points during any given game. Check out his 47-point performance back on December 10th against the Nuggets:

Oladipo’s hard work during the offseason is paying off as he is in the best shape of his life. The Mavericks will have their hands full with the 5th year guard from Indiana. Look for Wes Matthews to matchup with Oladipo from the tip.

Matthews continues to get the hardest defensive assignments night in and night out for Mavericks. He is coming off one of his best individual defensive performances in a Mavs uniform against DeMar DeRozan. Matthews forced DeRozan into tough shot after tough shot. DeRozan ended the night shooting just 18 percent from the field on 16 shots. Matthews has been very good at defending isolations this year giving up just 0.815 points-per-possession in isolation which is in the 67th percentile, per Synergy. He will be challenged as a pick-and-roll defender, you have to think that Nate McMillan and his staff will run a bunch of 2–5 pick-and-rolls involving Dirk and Wes. If Matthews can play anywhere close to what he showed last night in Dallas, the Mavericks will be in a better spot than most think. 

The Oladipo-Matthews matchup could be the matchup that decides tonight’s game. Oladipo is listed as questionable with a sore right knee.

Advantage: Signficant Edge Pacers

Small Forward
Harrison Barnes (6–8, 225, 6th Year) vs. Bojan Bogdanovic (6–8, 215, 4th Year)

Harrison Barnes will likely start on Bogdanovic but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Mavericks decided to throw Dirk on the 4th year wing from Bosnia & Herzegovina. Bogdanovic is averaging 14.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.3 assists on 48 percent shooting in 31.5 minutes per game. Bogdanovic is known for his ability to stretch the floor, shooting 40 percent on 4.9 3s per game. When Bogdanovic plays well the Pacers typically play well. He is averaging 17.2 points in the Pacers wins and just 10.1 points in Indiana’s losses.

Barnes has been on a tear of late for the Mavericks. Going into last night’s matchup against Toronto he was riding a 4-game streak of 20+ points. He had 16 points and 10 rebounds versus the Raptors. He is averaging 18.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists in 34.9 minutes per game.

Barnes has taken a lot of the Mavericks woes personally this season, telling Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News, “We’ve lost a lot of games late, so I take a lot of blame for that. Obviously, I have to be better, so we can be better.” The Mavs picked up a critical “clutch game” win last night, maybe last’s nights game will boost the team’s confidence when attempting to finish out close games late.

Advantage: Edge Mavericks

Power Forward
Maxi Kleber (6–11, 220, Rookie Year) vs. Thaddeus Young (6–8, 220, 11th Year)

Maxi Kleber played one of his best games in a Mavericks uniform last night against the Toronto Raptors. In 25 minutes of action, Kleber went 6 of 9 from the floor for 15 points. He added 8 rebounds and had 5 blocks. Kleber also sprinkled in 2 assists and 2 steals. 

Kleber has been quite a revelation for a Mavericks team that is always looking to add young talent. He is a smart young player that continues to just go out on the court and do his job. He is one of the most productive players offensively in the half-court thus far this season. He has scored 164 points on 136 half court possessions which is good for 1.206 points-per-possession, ranking him in the 98th percentile, per Synergy. Maxi has excelled as a spot up shooter and a cutter averaging 1.188 points-per-possession on spot up’s within the half court and 1.6 points-per-possession via cuts within the half court. Carlisle is becoming more and more comfortable with Maxi out on the court and Kleber is making a huge impact considering he is a rookie that has only played in 29 career NBA games.

Thaddeous Young gives the Pacers a swiss-army knife type of player at the power forward position. He is averaging 12.2 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 1.9 assists in 32.9 minutes per game. He shoots 35 percent from the three-point line on just 2.7 attempts per game. He is active on the defensive end averaging 1.7 steals-per-game. The matchup between him and Maxi Kleber is a little more even then most people will account for due to Kleber’s recent play. Look for both players to impact the game on defensive end.

Advantage: Slight Edge Pacers

Dirk Nowitzki (7–0, 245, 20th Year) vs. Myles Turner (6–11, 255, 3rd Year)

Coming into the season many assumed that Myles Turner will be the go-to guy for the Indiana Pacers. Oladipo has taken over the role as the alpha dog on the team. Turner’s number this season are looking very similar to last year as he is averaging 14.5 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 2.4 blocks in 30.2 minutes per game. He is your prototypical modern big man who can block shots while defending the rim and can also step out to shoot the 3. He is shooting 36 percent from 3 on 2.7 attempts, up from 1.4 attempts last year. In his 3 career games against the Pacers, he is averaging 21 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 2 blocks.

Dirk does not match up well against Myles Turner. It will be interesting to see if Carlisle and his staff decide to mix up the matchups, quite possibly putting him on Bojan Bogdanovic. Offensively, Dirk is starting to get into a nice rhythm. He is shooting 46.2 percent from 3 during the month of December. His last three games he’s scored 20, 18, and 18 points. Nowitzki hinted during the pre-season that it may take him longer to get his body acclimated to the grind of the regular season — we are now 35 games into the season and it looks like Dirk is starting to turn back the clock.

Advantage: Moderate Edge Pacers


Both benches bring an array of weapons to the table. The Mavericks often bust out the small unit of Barea, Yogi, and Devin Harris. That lineup is fun to watch as they often beat teams with multiple pick-and-roll sets. Barea played a brilliant game last night against Toronto finishing with 20 points on 9 of 18 shooting. The Pacers bring in the flamboyant Lance Stephenson who gives the Pacers a jolt of energy with his on-court passing and his ability to push the pace. Domantas Sabonis is the Pacers go-to big man off the bench. Sabonis’ per 36 numbers are quite impressive as he is averaging 17.8 points and 12.1 rebounds. He knows his role and he plays hard-nosed basketball. He is a tough cover off the bench.He is listed as questionable with a sore left big toe.

Advantage: Even

It should be an exciting game with the Maverick searching for a road win that has come few and far between this season. The Pacers are coming off a disappointing loss in Detroit with their star player, Victor Oladipo only scoring 13 points. You’d have to think both teams will try to come out aggressive from the opening tip.

Prediction: 110-103 Pacers

Staff writer covering the Dallas Mavericks | Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. Received my Bachelor of Science in Sport Administration from the University of Cincinnati in 2012. NBA fan in a college basketball city. I've been a MFFL since the Nellie Days.

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