Welp, that didn’t go as planned.
The Mavericks were lucky enough to start their season with two games at home against two of the teams expected to be among the worst in the league. How did they handle that opportunity? The drop both. Things certainly don’t get any easier as they will travel to Houston to take on the revamped Rockets Saturday night before coming home to face the defending-champion Golden State Warriors on Monday.
The Rockets are 2-0 following road wins at Golden State on opening night and then against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night. Interestingly, Saturday night will be the home opener for the Rockets and just about a half mile down the street, the Houston Astros will be playing the New York Yankees in game 7 of the American League Championship Series. It will definitely be a busy night in downtown Houston.
Both teams will play Satuday night without their anticipated starting point guard for this season. The Mavs learned shortly before tip-off Friday night that they’d be without rookie Dennis Smith Jr. for Friday night’s game and learned later that he would travel with the team to Houston because of a knee effusion. There is hope he can return on Monday against the Warriors. For the Rockets, their future hall of fame point guard Chris Paul is potentially out for up to a month. According to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, Paul’s injury originally occurred in a preseason game, but has lingered and not improved. A rough timeline for his return has been set for two-to-four weeks.
Mavs PG Dennis Smith Jr. will not play tomorrow vs. Rockets. Rick Carlisle says they hope he can play Monday vs. Warriors.
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) October 21, 2017
Dallas could be in a tough spot if Smith Jr has to miss any significant amount of time. His injury comes on the heels of learning about an extended absence for guard Devin Harris following the tragic death of his brother on Thursday. In addition, there is still no new info about Seth Curry’s potential season debut as he battles back from an injury to his leg that he suffered early in the preseason. So suddenly, the insane amount of depth everyone thought the Mavericks had in the backcourt becomes very thin. Rookie and two-way contract signer Gian Clavell scored three points in ten minutes during his NBA debut Friday, and could see even more minutes if the Mavericks will be without three of their best guards.
Matchup-wise, tonight would probably be a good night for Rick Carlisle to start Nerlens Noel and play Dirk Nowitzki at power forward. The thought of Dirk trying to chase around an athletic center likes Rockets big man Clint Capela. The thought of him hanging around with Ryan Anderson around the three point line is a little easier to cope with.
For the Mavs to have a chance to rack up wins, they’ll need Harrison Barnes to be better than he’s been in the first two games. Barnes has shot 35% from the field through two games and has taken way too many bad isolation shots. Even though those were a key weapon for him last season, shots like that need to not be taken if they show any sign of not working. One improvement for Barnes through two games has been his aggression in getting to the basket. For every time he takes a contested mid-range jump shot, he drives to the basket for a quality shot in the paint. For his effort, the referees have rewarded him with more free throws. Barnes only averaged about 4 free throw shots per game last season, but has averaged 9 through the first two games. If he can stay around the 7-9 per game, it will be a very big improvement in his game.
Even without Chris Paul, this is very close to the same Rockets team that won 55 games behind an MVP-worthy performance by James Harden last season. This will be a challenging game for Rick Carlisle, Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 PM tonight at the Toyota Center.
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