AmericanAirlines Center, 8:30 ET, League Pass
With less than 20 games to go in the season, there’s not much room for error. That’s why tonight’s meeting between Dallas & Detroit is magnified – an early March matchup with huge postseason implications.
Currently, Dallas sits 7th in the West with a 1.5 game lead over 8th place Houston. And Detroit, 9th in the East, is battling to leap frog either Chicago (1 GB) or Indiana (1.5 GB) for a playoff return.
Dirk and the Mavs have struggled lately, losers of three straight. During the losses, Dallas has gotten absolutely pounded on the interior, with huge nights given up to DeMarcus Cousins (40 & 12), Kenneth Faried (25 & 20), and DeAndre Jordan aka Public Enemy #1 (23 & 20).
It doesn’t bode well that tonight’s matchup is against Andre Drummond, the league’s premier rebounder. Detroit’s main strategy will be playing from inside-out – establish Dre on the inside and force Dallas to make a decision while defending Reggie Jackson in the PnR. During Detroit’s last game (a W over Portland), Jackson attacked the rim after Dre’s high screens and lofted easy passes over the top when the D decided to collapse.
Tobias Harris and Marcus Morris have been excellent complementary pieces in the starting five. Morris is operating our of the mid-post more and more these days and Harris offers another scorer and shot creator (5 assists v. POR, highest total since early Jan.) to take pressure off Jackson.
Now, Dallas can offset Detroit with outside shooting, especially if Deron Williams, Wes Matthews and Chandler Parsons are aggressive on the perimeter. Expect D-Will to control the pace and come out inspired, which is normally the recipe for success.
Seriously, you can really tell which version of Williams will show up at the outset of games. If he is attacking the rim and finding open shooters, Dallas is in good shape. When he’s not, opposing teams lock in on Dirk.
The game will come down to who makes less mistakes down the stretch (obviously). And since Dallas is a veteran-laden bunch used to balancing the importance of late, regular-season matchups, they have the edge.
It’ll be close but in the end, D-Will & the Mavs will come out on top.
Deron Williams: Projected Top DOG
David Lee has been pretty solid since joining Dallas, averaging 12.5 points & 8.8 boards his last 4 contests. Lee will be counted on to move the rock and finish PnR feeds in this one – he’ll have his hands full with Drummond but expect to see him contribute down the stretch of this close game.
Reggie Bullock, on the other hand, is a more “curious” UnderDOG selection. IN the wake of Stanley Johnson‘s injury, Bullock has averaged nearly 10 points/night and is finally starting to knock down open triples. Look for 10-12 points and a few more treys tonight.