It is officially the final game of the season for the Mavs. The Dallas Mavericks (24-57) will take on the Phoenix Suns (20-61) in the American Airlines Center as they both kiss the 2017-18 season goodbye. While the Suns have their positioning locked up with the best odds in the lottery, Dallas’ positioning is still somewhat up in the air. With a loss, the Mavericks would end up at least tied for the third best odds in the lottery; but a win could give Dallas as low as the fifth best odds.
Dallas has already begun positioning themselves in a losing situation as they plan to rest leading scorer Harrison Barnes in tonight’s lottery showdown. Salah Mejri, whose role has been all over the place this season, is also expected to sit out with a right knee contusion. Mejri will be entering restricted free agency this summer; the Tunisian big man may have already played his final game in a Maverick jersey. Salah Mejri is 31 years old on a rebuilding team and is averaging 3.5 points per game, four rebounds per game and just 1.1 blocks per game. He has also been plagued with multiple injuries throughout the season, particularly in his knee.
Rookie sensation Dennis Smith Jr. is currently being listed as questionable. Junior stuffed the stat sheet against Philadelphia on Sunday when he scored 20 points, dished out 11 assists, pulled down five rebounds and recorded three steals and two blocks. The rookie logged 40 minutes that game and is experiencing some left knee soreness headed into the season finale. Doug McDermott is also being listed as questionable with a left elbow contusion.
Phoenix has been doing nothing but attempting to lock up the number one spot in the lottery in this final stretch of the season, and they were successful. However, one bright spot has really begun to glow lately: Josh Jackson. The fourth overall pick in last summer’s draft has averaged 23.4 points per game over the last five games and continues to show his defensive potential. While he sat out Phoenix’s matchup against the Warriors on Sunday, he may give it a go tonight against the Mavs. Behind Jackson, Devin Booker and whomever the Suns pick in this upcoming draft, the Suns may be building something special for the future.
Johnathan Motley has been in a good way for Dallas lately. The two-way player had a down game against Philly on Sunday, but logged multiple career-highs last Friday against Detroit. Motley scored 26 points and pulled down 12 rebounds, making him just the fourth Maverick to log a stat line like that since 2004; Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion and Josh Howard were the other three to do so, according to Bobby Karalla. He is expected to start again tonight for the Mavericks.
The Mavs have lost four straight matchups to the rival Suns and may not have the best odds to pull this one out either. The Suns are going for their first season sweep against the Mavericks since the 1997-98 season. Whether or not the Mavericks will be without Dennis Smith Jr. remains to be seen, but a loss would guarantee Dallas top-three odds in the lottery system. It is not your typical end to the season, but the summer will have much in store for the Dallas Mavericks.
Tonight’s game tips off at 7:30 p.m. CT.
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