Wolves at Mavericks
7:30 pm CDT
The Wolves did not have much time to dwell on last night’s fraught but ultimately successful home opener. Instead, they boarded a plane for Dallas where they will play their first back-to-back of the season against the Mavericks.
The Mavs, who were hammered in their season opener in Phoenix 121-100 are unfortunately missing significant veteran talent due to injury. Franchise icon Dirk Nowitzki is out with an ankle injury, guard Devin Harris is out with a sore hamstring, and top scorer forward Harrison Barnes is unlikely to play with a sore hamstring of his own.
That leaves the Mavs to be led by a couple of young players: Second year guard Dennis Smith Jr., whose explosiveness has not yet led to consistent performance, and prized rookie Luka Doncic, who is the main reason to recommend this game. Doncic is a heralded rookie with tremendous ball skills who, when going well, can wow with his handling and passing skills. He’s likely to be a crowd favorite for years, and I’m looking forward to seeing him tonight.
Doncic and Smith both struggled shooting the ball in their opener, combining to go 11-35 from the field, and of course the Mavs will need them to do better tonight if they want to get a win at home. They will also have to turn in a better defensive performance, as the Suns got just about any shot they wanted en route to 54 percent from the field as a team.
The Wolves will get to see an old nemesis in a new jersey tonight, as DeAndre Jordan joined the Mavs over the summer as a free agent, three years after it looked like he was going to sign with them only to return to the Clippers at the last minute. Jordan has often caused the Wolves problems with his strength on the offensive glass and his ability to catch and finish lobs around the rim. Of course it helps that it won’t be Chris Paul orchestrating the opponent’s offense tonight, but the Wolves will have their hands full with Jordan on the interior.
Wolves fans, meanwhile, have seen similar things this early season that they did last year, which is perhaps not surprising given limited roster changes despite all the turmoil. A lot of offensive firepower has been on display despite a rather unaesthetic, minimal passing approach, along with a very questionable defense and disastrous defensive rebounding.
Jimmy Butler has reminded us that he is still a top-tier NBA player even if he would rather be elsewhere, but is being rested tonight after a limited preseason and relatively big minutes last night. This is rather unusual for Tom Thibodeau, but a welcome change—with Butler both vital to the team’s success while he’s on it, and his trade value being of importance, it’s good to limit the risk.
The Wolves need to get Karl-Anthony Towns going offensively, preferably by getting him the ball in space where he can use his shooting and driving skills to best advantage, as he’s off to a very slow start. Perhaps without Butler, who carries a heavy load, more opportunities will funnel Towns’ way.
As I noted after the game one loss to the Spurs, this team has enough talent to win some games, and will likely do so. Despite playing on a back to back, there is no reason they shouldn’t win this one against an undermanned Mavs team.
Dennis Smith Jr.
Our blogging buddies tonight are over at Mavs Moneyball. Be excellent.
Enjoy the game. Chat here .Go Wolves.