Game 12 Preview: Mavs vs Thunder

The Mavs are back home tonight to duel with Paul George and the Oklahoma City Thunder for a late start at 8:00 pm CT.   The Thunder have won a league high 7 games in a row but will be without superstar point guard Russell Westbrook for the 5th time this season after he rolled his ankle a few games back.  Don’t let his absence fool you, the Thunder are still a very dangerous defensive team.

Dallas Mavericks Oklahoma City Thunder
Record  3-8  7-4
Position 14th in West 4th in West
PPG 110.7 110.2
Points Allowed 115.3 106.2
FG % 45.0% 44.6%
3p % 34.4% 29.0%
FT % 78.0% 69.2%
RPG 44.4 46.6
APG 23.0 20.1
TO 17.1 13.7

 

Projected Starters
Dallas Mavericks Oklahoma City Thunder
PG Dennis Smith, Jr Dennis Schroder
SG Wesley Matthews Terrance Ferguson
SF Luka Doncic Paul George
PF Harrison Barnes Jerami Grant
C DeAndre Jordan Steven Adams

The Thunder are first in the league in steals at nearly 12 per game, they are 5th in the league in points allowed at 106 per game, and just held the Houston Rockets offense to just 80 points last game.  Given the Mavericks turnover struggles so far this season (4th most in the league) this is not an ideal matchup.

The Mavericks have been dead last in defending the 3-point line this year, allowing opponents to shoot 42%, while the Thunder are dead last in 3-point percentage, shooting less than 30% from downtown.  Somethings got to give, will this be what the Mavs need to get their defense on track or will the lazy Mavs defense allow the Thunder to get their shot going?

Although Russell Westbrook is out with an ankle injury, expect backup Dennis Schroder be more than serviceable.  He averaged 19 points and 6 assists last season on the Atlanta Hawks and has some big games when Westbrook is out, like his 28 point performance against the Cavs on Wednesday.  He doesn’t shoot well from 3 but he gets to the basket at will and knows how to set up his teammates.

One teammate in particular he would like to get some open shots is 5x All Star, 4x All NBA, 3x All-Defensive team, small forward Paul George.  George is not shooting it well to start the season but he is still averaging 22 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and a league leading 2.8 steals per game.  Luka v PG is definitely a matchup to watch.  Luka averages 4.2 turnovers per game and George will be looking to take advantage to try to turn defense into offense, the Thunder M.O.

As for the Mavericks, they need to protect home court and prevent an even further drop in the Western Conference standings.  After an uplifting win against a terrible Wizards team, the Mavs looked tired and sloppy in Utah on the second night of a back-to-back.  The coaching staff, and MFFLs, continue to questions the team’s pride and effort on the defensive end.  The help defense, rotation, and individual defense all leaves much to be desired.  There is no way this team will sniff the playoffs without learning how to play team defense ALL GAME LONG, not just when we are down by 20 points.

Perhaps a fix to the lack of defensive energy is more minutes for two improving young forwards, Dorian Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber.  With their hustle plays and versatility on offense and defense, these two are going to be key role players for the Mavs, hopefully for years to come.  Both players are restricted free agents next year on very favorable salaries, and if they keep improving at this rate, the Mavs front office have found some absolute diamonds in the rough.  I am in favor of allotting a healthy chunk of minutes for both these guys going forward.

Luka Doncic (Knee), Wesley Matthews (Hip), and Devin Harris (Hamstring), are all listed as questionable for tonight’s game, let’s hope all 3 feel good at shootaround and are able to get on the floor.

Time to stand up and protect home floor MFFLs, Lets Go Mavs!

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