Unfortunately for the Dallas Mavericks, they’ve been mathematically eliminated from the NBA’s In-Season Tournament after victories over the weekend by both the Phoenix Suns and New Orleans Pelicans. Disappointing as it may be, the Mavericks are still in a solid position as they currently sit at fifth in the Western Conference with a record of 10-6.
However, Dallas still has one In-Season tournament game remaining and it falls on tonight against Houston at home. The Rockets have the first-ranked defensive rating in the NBA this season at 106.8, as the veterans they brought in over the offseason have helped synchronize together the defensive abilities of a young group with elite athletes.
Mavericks' role players will need to step up offensively in game vs. Rockets
Dallas saw just how dull their offense can look when three-pointers aren’t going in, as they only made nine out of 38 3-pointers in their recent 88-107 loss to the LA Clippers. The Rockets are also second in the league in opponent three-point percentage at 32.2 percent, so Dallas will have to be particularly keen on finding ways to diversify their offensive portfolio tonight.
Dallas has definitely picked up their defensive intensity in their last two games against the LA teams, but role players can’t lose sight of how they were playing on the other side of the ball before Dallas’ recent road trip.
Given how much length and size Houston has on the perimeter, we know that they are likely going to be contingent on sending traps at Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving all night. Irving and Doncic have been handling situations like that well all year by getting the ball out quickly, but the Mavericks have sorely missed Dereck Lively II’s decision-making ability in those 4-on-3 scenarios in the last two games and will continue to need role players to step up in those situations.
One can make an argument that Houston’s one weak point defensively in their starting lineup is their lack of rim protection, as third-year big man Alperen Sengun is a little undersized length-wise. Sengun is having arguably his best season for the Rockets though, and is displaying Jokic-like ability as a ball-mover and post-up player on offense. Sengun has a long way to go before he reaches Jokic’s consistency, but the writing is on the wall in Houston for the Rockets to build a contender around Sengun one day.
It was reported that Lively II is listed as questionable ahead of Dallas’ Tuesday night matchup against Houston after he suffered an injury versus the Lakers, but the Mavericks should be praying that he plays as they desperately need his length and verticality against Sengun. Dallas’ spacing on offense has been a lot more out of sorts recently as well without the lob threat that Lively II is, so role players will have to get creative against the likes of Jabari Smith Jr., Dillon Brooks, and Tari Eason.
Doncic and Irving can be a "get out of jail free card" for Dallas when their offense stalls out sometimes, but that can’t be relied upon over a large stretch. Houston still has their deficiencies as a younger team, and their lack of a true superstar on offense makes them vulnerable.
Dallas will need the likes of Josh Green, Grant Williams, and Derrick Jones Jr. to step up on offense tonight if they want to guarantee a victory. Dallas can’t let their foot off the pedal on defense either, as they’ve done a better job at team rotations in the last two games against the LA teams, even if the LA teams aren’t the best shooting-wise compared to Houston.
Hopefully, Dallas can turn the page tonight against Houston even though this game won’t matter as far as the In-Season Tournament is concerned. We’ll have you covered with everything going on with the Dallas Mavericks, so stay tuned.