The Mavericks are back!
After nearly five months, the Mavs, NBA, and entire basketball world is ready to get back to it from the sanctity of the Orlando bubble.
It will be an eight game sprint to the postseason, with many teams jockeying for playoff positioning.
The Mavericks will start their set with division rival Houston on Friday. The Rockets envelope-pushing presents unique challenges for every team in the Association, the Mavs included.
We’ve compiled a list things to look out for come Friday night.
How will Dallas exploit the Rockets small lineup?
After the trade of Clint Capela around the deadline, it was abundantly clear that Rockets were all in on “small ball.”
A lineup featuring no players taller than 6’8 and an infatuation with the three point shot creates serious difficulties for defenses. In fact, it’s almost impossible to guard. It’s truly a pick-your-poison scenario.
The real riddle, is how to break them down on the opposite end.
A lot of teams and coaches see the fun-sized lineup and immediately feed the post. But that doesn’t always seem to work, as the Rockets boast a group of stout post defenders, even at smaller sizes.
I think the real trick is to give them some of their own medicine. Spread the floor and use the increased space to generate paint touches. This was more difficult with Capela in the fold, but the Rockets lost all of their rim protection and rebounding when he was shipped out.
And good news for the Mavs, is they don’t have to sacrifice any size or rim protection to maintain the elite spacing required to attack Houston’s D. They have a 7’3 unicorn just for that sort of thing.
Look for both Luka and KP to have productive outings on Friday because of this. The Mavs will certainly need them to if they hope for a victory.
How do they defend Harden and Westbrook?
James Harden and Russell Westbrook are one of the most dangerous duos in the entire NBA.
The former is a 30 PPG scorer, boasting an unstoppable isolation game and pension for drawing fouls.
The latter? A former MVP whose relentless attacking has only been enhanced by the shift to small ball.
So how do you slow them down? There’s not an exact science, but there are a couple wrinkles teams have thrown in there to cause the dynamic duo some problems.
First, be aggressive on Harden. Trap, pre-rotate, double randomly, etc… Devote all the resources you need to prevent him from doing the scoring or play making. You’d much rather it be a Danuel House or Robert Covington.
And secondly, you have to keep Westbrook away from the front of the rim. It’s easier said than done, but I’ve seen teams, namely Utah, put their rim-protecting center Rudy Gobert on him.
Westbrook’s broken jumpshot and Houston’s lack of size allowed them to sink him into the paint and deter shots or drives.
Thankfully, Mavericks have their own elite rim protector who could be deployed in a similar capacity. It will be interesting to see what route Carlisle and his staff go with on Friday night.
How will the bench fare?
The Mavericks definitely flashed some positives throughout the three pre-restart scrimmages. Among them however, was not the bench play.
A strong bench was something the team had enjoyed all year. With guys like Brunson, Kleber, and Curry manning the ship it’s easy to see why.
But with injuries and opt-outs piling up, the team’s once solid depth has been shot. Brunson, Powell, Lee, and Cauley-Stein being out has had a domino effect regarding the teams lineups.
6th man standout Seth Curry has been thrust into the starting lineup. While he’s been great, the bench has missed his production.
Delon Wright, who clearly isn’t real comfortable as a lead guard, has taken on more ball-handling responsibilities. Boban has gone from a matchup play to a regular rotation piece and with Justin Jackson’s struggles, guys like Antonius Cleveland and Josh Reaves could see time.
The Trey Burke signing should help, but it’s a group that is in flux. The Mavericks will need to find some consistency from their reserves if they want to make a deep run in Orlando.
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