Meet the Opponent: 3 Things to Know About the Dallas Mavericks

Grant Afseth

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The Indiana Pacers recently wrapped up what ended up being a four-game West Coast road trip with a 129-83 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday night. They will look to bounce back when they host the Dallas Mavericks at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. 

The Mavericks are 6-7 on the season and haven't quite managed to play at the same level they reached to finish the 2020 season. Dallas is coming off a 116-93 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Monday night in Tampa, Fla., and is currently in the midst of a  three-game losing streak. 

The last time these two teams faced off was Feb. 3, 2020, prior to the NBA shutdown. The Mavericks came out on top, 112-103. Kristaps Porzingis (38) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (25) combined for 63 points while Luka Doncic was sidelined.

Both teams will be short-handed in Wednesday night's matchup. The Pacers (8-5) won't have Caris LeVert, Myles Turner, and TJ Warren. As for the Mavericks, they will have both Doncic and Porzingis in the lineup but will be without Josh Richardson, Maxi Kleber, and Dorian Finney-Smith due to COVID-19 protocols.

Here are three things to know about the Dallas Mavericks ahead of Wednesday's game with the the Indiana Pacers:

1. Mavericks Still Adjusting

With so many players out of the Mavericks' lineup, they've had to adjust on the fly. Jalen Brunson and Tim Hardaway Jr. both returned to the lineup Monday, but it was clear they are still working through some rust.

It's difficult to envision Hardaway playing worse than he did. He finished without scoring a single point in 27 minutes of game action, going 0-for-12 from the field and 0-for-6 from three-point range. Meanwhile, Brunson had 13 points, but went 4-of-10 from the field and had more turnovers (3) than assists (2). 

The Mavericks will need both players to find a rhythm offensively to help alleviate pressure from Doncic. Against the Raptors, the defense was able to pack the paint and force kick-outs – forcing other players to beat them.

2. Shooting Went From Strength to Weakness

Last season, there wasn't a team in the NBA that produced a more efficient output offensively than the Mavericks. For reference, Dallas generated 1.041 points per possession (PPP) on their offensive possessions,  leading the second-ranked Miami Heat by 0.016.

A pivotal element to Mavericks' success on offense was that they surrounded Luka Doncic with several productive three-point shooters. That has gone from a strength to a weakness early in the 2020-21 season. 

To put it into perspective, the Mavericks produced 1.131 PPP (6th) on spot-up possessions within the half-court last season. So far this season, Dallas is posting just 0.924 PPP (27th) in the same situations. 

The Mavericks made it clear they wanted to favor improving defensively, even if it came at the cost of their production on offense. A prime example of this was trading sharpshooter Seth Curry to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for Josh Richardson. That trade has come at a price so far. 

3. Luka Doncic Coming Off Down Outing 

The key to the Mavericks' success is clearly the play of All-NBA First-Team member Luka Doncic. If he's not playing up to his usual standard, it's almost a given that Dallas will be facing an uphill climb to pull off a win. 

During the Mavericks' loss to the Raptors, Doncic was limited to just 15 points on 4-of-11 shooting (36.4 percent) and he was 0-for-3 from three-point range. Toronto managed to come away with a 116-93 victory in the matchup on Monday night.

The Pacers struggled slow down Clippers superstars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George on Sunday night while Myles Turner was sidelined. Often times, Indiana deployed various zone defenses while at other times were sending two defenders to the ball in man-to-man situations. 

With Turner likely to be sidelined for Wednesday's game, the Pacers will have to get creative yet again on the defensive end. Doncic doesn't have the luxury of playing alongside another superstar on the wing. Could Indiana's various zone schemes or trapping in man-to-man defense give him fits? 

Don't count on too many underwhelming outings from Doncic. Even when counting his rough play against the Raptors, he is still averaging 30.9 points, 12.7 rebounds, and 11.1 assists in the month of January.