I lived in Dallas for a brief period of time. It coincided with the Mavs championship run of 2010-11 and, despite my best intentions, I allowed that Dallas team to creep into my brain. I’m a loyal fan of my teams. I was raised by Packers, went to school in Madison, and have a grandmother that wears a cheesehead whenever we visit her, yet I’ve stayed loyal to my Vikes throughout (for better or worse). I don’t normally allow other teams into my heart regardless of where I’m living or the success that they’re having. Suck on that, Broncos.
But with the Mavs, everything changed. My conversion was partially caused by the playoff fever that gripped the city and people around me, a fever I haven’t been afflicted with since 2004. The fact that they were going head-to-head with the evil, three-headed Cerberus (thanks Google) of Miami helped as well. Additionally, the Wolves were causing me to question my loyalties by employing a hot garbage roster that featured names like Flynn, Beasley, Randolph, and Milicic. It was the perfect storm. Cracks started to appear in my fandom, and then, this man appeared and blew things wide open.
It’s not like I wasn’t aware of this tall, German child. I watched his one-footed fade-away from afar for years, but it wasn’t until I was living in Dallas, going to games, and seeing Mavs team promotions that I realized the extreme likability of @swish41. Originally drafted by the Bucks in 1998, he was traded to Dallas in exchange for Robert Traylor (nicely done Milwaukee). Entering into his 19th season, Dirty Dirk continues to show off the pure shooting touch that essentially created the concept of a stretch four. Against the Wolves a few nights ago, he dropped 26 points on 8-16 shooting, in one of his best games of the season.
Dirk is starting to show his age, however, only appearing in 14 games this season. His effective field goal percentage is the lowest it’s been since his rookie year, but he still manages to get buckets. He scored 26 and 18 in his last two games and apparently 50-something against Team USA back in the day.
Somehow, someway, the Mavs seem to be one of those teams that’s good enough to sneak into the playoffs each and every year. Whether it’s the coaching of Rick Carlisle, the spending of Mark Cuban, or the steadying presence of Nowitzki, they have been to the playoff in 15 of the last 16 years. Let’s do a quick check and see how the Timberwolves have fared over that same time period... Oh, God, that can’t be right, can it?
This year, however, might be when the Mavs fortunes change. They are currently at 12-27, with an aging roster (4th oldest in the league), an overabundance of Derron Williams, and offensive and defensive ratings that are among the worst in the league (25th and 22nd respectively). They score the least amount of points in the league at 95.6, but they are fourth best at limiting opponents points at 100.8. Does this mean that the Mavs are a defensive juggernaut? No, no it does not. It means that they play extremely slow. They are 29th in the league in pace. Even the Grindhouse play slightly faster than the Mavs (28th).
So what does this mean for the Wolves tonight? It means that they should continue to stretch this winning streak to four games. Yes, the Mavs are coming off a win in Mexico City, but it was against the Suns. Yes, Harrison Barnes has shown something this season, even with the piles of money weighing him down, but this should be a win for the Timberwolves. Especially if they continue to play the way they did against the Thunder, Rockets, and, well, Mavs. If they revert back to their hungover start to 2017 (first legal New Years was a doozy for the Young Pups), all of the optimism that’s currently floating around CH will most likely melt into a nasty puddle of negativity.
Don’t do this to us, Wolves. We don’t want to question Thibs dust, or the role of a unicorn, or the defensive prowess of a large KAT. We want to talk about winning streaks, and rainbows, and our collective love for Brandon Rush.
I guess what I’m saying is, win this one for the comment section.
Expected Starting Lineups
PG - Ricky Rubio: 7.5 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 7.8 APG, 37.9% FG, 25.3% 3pt FG
SG - Brandon Rush: 3.3 PPG, 1.5 RPG, .7 APG, 40% FG, 44.8% 3pt FG
SF - Andrew Wiggins: 22.0 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 2.3 APG, 44.4% FG, 34.3% 3pt FG
PF - Gorgui Dieng: 10.4 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 2.1 APG, 51.6% FG, 33.3% 3pt FG
C - Karl-Anthony Towns: 21.9 PPG, 12.0 RPG, 3.0 APG, 48.8% FG, 30.6% 3pt FG
Injuries: Nikola Pekovic is out (achilles), Zach Lavine is questionable (hip)
PG - Deron Williams: 14.0 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 6.8 APG, 42.6% FG, 35.1% 3pt FG
SG - Wesley Matthews: 15.1 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 2.2 APG, 38.6% FG, 37.6% 3pt FG
SG - Seth Curry: 10.1 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 2.7 APG, 45.3% FG, 40.7% 3pt FG
SF - Harrison Barnes: 20.8 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.5 APG, 47.9% FG, 35.8% 3pt FG
PF - Dirk Nowitzki: 13.2 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.6 APG, 39.5% FG, 36.1% 3pt FG
Injuries: Andrew Bogut is questionable (hamstring)
As we always do in game previews, let’s take a look at how the Wolves and Mavericks match up using the Four Factors. Reminder, the Four Factors are effective field goal percentage (eFG%), turnover percentage (TOV%), offensive rebounding percentage (ORB%), and free throw rate (FTR).
factor / Wolves / Mavericks
eFG% / 50.5 / 49.7
TOV% / 13.7 / 12.1
ORB% / 27.8 / 19.0
FTR / .221 / .171
As noted above, the Mavs play slow, they’re ranked in the bottom third of the league in three of the four factors above, while the Wolves are third in ORB% and up to eighth in FTR. The one area of concern would be turnovers. Minnesota is ranked 24th in TOV% while Dallas is first in causing defensive turnovers.
If we can reign in the sloppiness, we should be able to finish the week on a high note. Of course, this is exactly when the Timberwolves customarily rip out our hearts and produce a hot vurp of a game, but we’re going to push away those nasty thoughts for the time being. Hopefully, this “should win” turns into a “did win” before the team heads off to San Antonio next week.
Prediction: Wolves 98, Mavericks 90
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