Happy New Year! Following a loss to the Thunder to close out 2018, the Mavericks remain on the road to start 2019 in Charlotte against the Hornets. The Hornets (18-18) are one game better than the Mavericks (17-19) yet currently hold the 6th seed in the playoffs due to a less competitive Eastern Conference.
Losers of eight of their last 10 games and falling to under .500, wins have been hard to come by for Dallas as of late. With the Western Conference as deep and competitive as it is, the Mavericks need to keep up the pace to remain in playoff contention, which makes tonight have a must-win feeling to it.
Matching up against a team like Charlotte, in a similar tier and record, the Mavericks must take advantage of that tonight. On top of that, following tonight’s game, the next two match ups for Dallas contain travelling to Boston and Philadelphia, two of the top teams in the East. With the worst record in the league, tonight seems like a great opportunity to start the year off on the right foot with a road victory.
Defending Kemba Walker
Cardiac Kemba is a problem, period. The former UCONN star is having a career season in a contract year, averaging 25.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 6.1 assists. Kemba has always been known for his explosive scoring ability and clutch moments, but this year, he has taken it to another level. Seemingly keeping the Hornets playoff chances alive on his own, the Mavericks will have their hands full tonight.
Dennis Smith Jr. will be called upon to defend Walker, which may not be a bad thing. DSJ’s defense has been particularly improved as of late as he has taken pride in stopping the opposition. Most notably, locking up Paul George on one of the final possessions, forcing George into a tough shot and helping Dallas clinch the victory.
It’s clear that Kemba can’t and won’t be stopped by just one person; it’s a team effort to slow Walker down. But, Dennis will get the first shot at doing so and by watching his defense as of late, he seems to be motivated to do so.
Defending Kemba Walker will have a lot to do with slowing down the Hornets, being that they rank seventh in the league in points per game at 113.7 and are averaging 117 points over their last three games. Based on Dallas’ defense, who allow 110.4 points per game, will have their hands full tonight.
Whether it’s ramping up their offensive output or slowing down the Hornets offense, Dallas must not overlook the mediocre Hornets in tonight’s must-win matchup.
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