Monday, 12/16 – Mavericks @ Bucks
Tonight, and this week as a whole, will be quite the test for the Mavs without Luka on the floor. Though they showed a lot of fight in the second half against the Heat on Saturday after Luka went down in the first minute of the game, it wasn’t enough. Tonight against the Bucks, is a different story. Sitting at 24-3, tied with the Lakers for the best record in the league, the Bucks are currently riding an 18-game winning streak. Yes, 18 games in a row. Giannis and company have been fantastic. Without Luka, tonight will be quite the test.
Matchup to watch: Mavericks vs Giannis
You can’t stop Giannis, you can only hope to contain him, and even then those hopes are a stretch. You can imagine Dorian Finney-Smith will see the bulk of the minutes defending Giannis but will need help from the big boys inside to alter all of Giannis’ drives and make it tough for the reigning MVP to score in the paint.
Wednesday, 12/18 – Celtics @ Mavericks
Swapping Kyrie Irving for Kemba Walker has seemed to be a positive for the Celtics so far this season. Not that they are very different players but the team just seems to be a more positive environment and an all around better fit with Walker leading the charge. Boston has four players (Walker, Tatum, Brown, Hayward) averaging between 17-23 points per game. Kemba will consistently get his but on a nightly basis, you never know which of the other three wings will have a big game. The Celtics balanced scoring punch is a dangerous thing to watch for this Mavericks defense.
Matchup to watch: Redemption for KP
When these two teams met in Boston on Nov. 11, Kristaps Porzingis shot just 1/11 from the field, scoring just four points in 20 minutes of game time. Likely without Luka, KP will need to find his groove offensively. The Celtics have a collection of defenders, big and small, that they will throw KP’s way. KP will need to take advantage of the smaller defenders like Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown when switched onto him, though he has had trouble with smaller defenders in the past.
Friday, 12/20 – Mavericks @ 76ers
The 76ers have arguably the best defensive starting lineup in the league, let alone one of the best starting lineups period. Without Luka, the Mavericks will have to find a way to score the basketball against such a long, well-versed defensive unit. The ball will need to pop with a lot of movement and cuts to get open looks for the likes of KP and THJ coming off of screens.
Matchup to watch: Defending Embiid
Joel Embiid is a monstrous physical specimen. He can score from all three levels, especially when he has the ball in his hands while on the block. Not one of the Maverick bigs can slow Embiid down single-handedly but what they can do is force him to shoot from outside. Though Embiid can hit from deep, he can get a little three point happy when left open. Currently shooting 31.6% from downtown, the Mavericks are better off if he starts launching from outside rather than going to work down low, getting easy buckets and getting to the line.
Sunday, 12/22 – Mavericks @ Raptors
In the first meeting between these two, the Mavericks stole the game in Dallas with an impressive 110-102 victory. For the Raptors, Pascal Siakam had what was likely his worst shooting game of the year, 6/24 from the field and scoring only 15 points. That likely won’t happen again but look for DFS to continue to make it difficult for Siakam to get to his spots.
Matchup to watch: Battle of the backcourts
With likely Jalen Brunson starting in place for the injured Doncic, he’ll be matched up against either Kyle Lowry or Fred VanVleet, that’s if VanVleet is back from injury. FVV is someone I saw as a comp for Brunson when he slid to the second round to the Mavericks. A proven, four-year college player who is simply just a winner. With no Luka, which has certainly become the trend for this weeks preview, Brunson and THJ will need to score the ball, along with KP of course, to be able to steal this one in Toronto and win the season series against the Raptors.
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