All things considered, the Dallas Mavericks have been pretty solid in their preseason exhibition games, posting a 4-1 record, with their only loss being to Orlando on the road when their main players, plus Rick Carlisle, didn’t even make the trip.
Tonight, the Mavs will look to finish strong as the regular season opener draws closer. After an impressive win by the young guys last night against the Atlanta Hawks, Dallas will finish things up on the road against Kemba Walker, Dwight Howard and the Charlotte Hornets.
Here are 3 things to watch for tonight.
Dennis Smith Jr.’s availability
After tweaking his ankle last night against the Hawks, you would think the Mavs would be cautious and keep Smith Jr. out until the season opener next week. However, according to Rick Carlisle, there’s a chance he’ll play tonight, which means the injury must not be all that serious.
If Smith Jr. does see the floor, he will try to continue his impressive play that got cut short the night before. He scored 9 points and 3 assists in only 12 minutes, while showing great poise and court vision. Whether it’s driving to basket at will or nailing a 3-pointer, Smith Jr. can do it all, and it’ll be nice to see him do it with consistent minutes once the season starts.
Last chance for the fringe Mavs
With Rick Carlisle supposedly set to play his starters close to regular minutes, I’m not so sure how much we’ll see guys like Maalik Wayns, P.J. Dozier, Brandon Ashley or Gian Clavell. As mentioned last night though, with Seth Curry out indefinitely, you’d think the Mavs would consider Clavell for the final roster spot. He had his best game of the entire preseason last night, scoring 19 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists.
Who knows what Dallas will decide to do at the end of their roster. With Harrison Barnes mainly playing power forward these days, the only real small forward on the Mavs is Dorian Finney-Smith, which makes you think they might consider adding guys like Ashley and Dozier. Clavell, however, looks to be ready to contribute off the bench immediately, if needed. We’ll see if any of these guys get one last opportunity tonight.
Dallas needs a fast start
One of the reasons for starting Dirk Nowitzki at center was to help the Mavs get off to faster starts. However, the last time to starters played, against the Orlando Magic at home, Dallas found themselves in an 11-5 hole early. Obviously, playing Dirk at center means that you’re going to give up some points, but if the scoring isn’t enough to keep the Mavs from falling behind early in games, you’d have to think a change would eventually be made.
Tonight, we’ll get to see how the chemistry with the starters looks in their final dress rehearsal before the real season begins. Rick Carlisle can be set in his ways at times, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Nerlens Noel made his way into the starting lineup before it’s said and done.