Tuesday – Clippers @ Mavericks
Before the Lakers easily handled the Mavs at home on January 10th, the Clippers visit to Dallas back on November 26th, a 114-99 win for LA, seems to be the only other time this season the Mavs have been dominated by another team from virtually start to finish. Doc Rivers and his team sit at 30-13 as of Monday morning and will come into Dallas on a three-game winning streak. While their season hasn’t been as completely dominant as one might expect, they still check virtually all of the boxes you’d expect out of a championship contending team. They currently rank in the top five in points per game, offensive rating and overall rebounding; and they’re top ten in defensive rating. While Paul George has already missed 17 out of a possible 43 games and Kawhi Leonard has missed 10, the Clippers are a hauntingly talented team no matter who is in uniform on any given night.
Matchup to watch: Luka vs the Clips stifling perimeter defenders*
Everyone was sure to hype up the caliber of the one-on-one defenders the Clippers were able to assemble last summer with a trio like Leonard, George and irritant point guard Patrick Beverley. This certainly was able to affect Luka Doncic the first time these two met as he had one of the worst games of his outstanding sophomore season: 22 points on 4-14 shooting, including 0-8 from beyond the arc. While no one on the Mavs played particularly well that night, they shot just 38% from the field, it’s often impossible for them to overcome nights where Doncic is only consistently scoring from the free throw line (14-16 that night). Surely the Mavs coaching staff has come up with ways for him to find more success on Tuesday, but the Clippers will certainly be ready.
*Co-nominee: The potential return of Kristaps Porzingis and how he looks in his first game back after missing ten games
– Dylan Duell
Thursday – Mavericks @ Trail Blazers
Short turnaround between this matchup as these two teams just faced off on Friday in Dallas, as the Mavericks won 120-112 behind 35 points from Luka and 29 from THJ. During Friday’s game, CJ McCollum went down with a left ankle sprain, forcing him out of the game and has yet to play since. Portland has even shaken up their roster since then, trading Kent Bazemore and Anthony Tolliver, and two future second round picks to the Kings for Trevor Ariza, Wenyen Gabriel, and Caleb Swanigan. With CJ potentially out of the lineup and some new faces on the roster, this could be an advantageous game for the Mavericks to take another win from Portland.
For Portland, every game matters when it comes to their pursuit at turning their season around. Currently, sitting at 11th in the West at 18-26, the Blazers are three games behind the Grizzlies for the 8th seed. Last season, Portland was the 3rd seed at 53-29, only three more losses than they have now. Could be a tough run and overall season for Portland if they don’t right the ship soon.
Matchup to watch: Defending Dame Dolla
As stated above, if McCollum is unable to play due to his ankle sprain, there will be a lot more on Dame Lillard’s plate than usual, and that’s a lot. Sprinkle in Carmelo Anthony of course, who scored 22 points in their last meeting but without CJ, it causes a lot of problems for the Blazers offense, forcing everything to run through Lillard and essentially taking away his off the ball effectiveness. If the Mavericks can slow down Dame while keeping the likes of Anthony and Whiteside at bay, the Mavericks should notch their second victory against the Trail Blazers in the last week.
– Michael Mulford
Saturday – Mavericks @ Utah
A potential first round playoff matchup, this will be the first time these two teams have played this season. Salt Lake City has not been a fun place to play for the Mavericks over the years and recent history suggests nothing different. Dallas has lost their last six games in SLC and their last win there came on April 11, 2016 when the Mavs came up with a big win to help them clinch their last playoff appearance.
This season, the Jazz have had their shares of ups and downs to get to their current 29-13 mark, as of Monday. Considering their championship contending aspirations headed into this season, their 12-10 start to the season was very underwhelming. They’ve now gone on a 17-3 run since then that included a 10-game winning streak from December 26th through January 14th. Interestingly, almost all of this scorching 17-3 stretch has come without Utah’s major summer acquisition, Mike Conley, on the floor. Conley has already missed 19 games this season because of a nagging hamstring injury. Now Utah is tasked with working him back into their highly successful puzzle. It might be a slow burn, as Conley only played 15 minutes in his first game back on Saturday night against Sacramento.
Matchup to watch: Mavs defending the three
Utah is a very good team all around, ranking in the top ten of both offensive and defensive rating, their number one ranking in three point percentage definitely stands out when you think about having to face them on the road. The idea of going into that Vivint Smart Homes Arena, a house of horrors for the Mavericks, and the Jazz capping off big runs with made three’s to send the crowd into a frenzy is quite familiar and easy to see happening multiple times throughout the night. The Jazz shoot 39% from three as a team and have four players who shoot over 40% from deep: Royce O’Neale (44%), Georges Niang (44%), Bojan Bogdanovic (42%) and Joe Ingles (42%). Bogdanovic and Ingles are more impressive given their volume at both over five attempts from deep per game. While one would suspect Dorian Finney-Smith to be tasked with chasing Donovan Mitchell most of the night, everyone on the Mavs offense will need to be on their best defensively to make sure elite shooters aren’t open.
– Dylan Duell
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