Game 18 Preview: Dallas Mavericks vs Minnesota Timberwolves

Dallas Mavericks (11-7) vs Minnesota Timberwolves (7-10)

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This is still a Picture of the Year candidate to me.

Last game: Minnesota: L, 107-92 vs Houston, Dallas: 97-83 vs Phoenix

Minnesota rallied in the third quarter to tie the game against Houston on Monday, but then hit a brick wall with an injury depleted roster, as Houston put the Wolves away with a flurry of fast breaks and three pointers. Kevin Love was completely dominant, scoring 39 points on supremely efficient 13-19 shooting from the field to go with 12 rebounds, but Ricky Rubio had the type of game that reminds the viewer that he is still adjusting to the NBA game, as he turned the ball over five times, all at very inopportune moments.

Dallas, without Dirk, edged the Suns on Monday, as Shawn Marion (!!!) caught fire from deep, hitting four 3-pointers, and scoring 29 points for the Mavericks, who have won 4 in a row, two in a row without Dirk.

The Key Questions

#1. What difference will injuries make in this game?

Rick Adelman, after Monday’s loss:

I have three guards and no small forward. We tried to adjust, but you’re putting people out of position…We just didn’t have enough answers.

Not exactly a boost of confidence. JJ Barea and Michael Beasley will both miss tonight’s game as well, and I can’t find confirmation anywhere that Wes will return, although one hopes he’d be feeling a bit better today.

The good news for Minnesota, of course, is that they still have their best player, the newly extended Kevin Love (much more on that coming from Jonah later today). The same can’t be said for Dallas, who will be missing Dirk Nowitzki for the fourth consecutive game.

#2. What should we make of Minnesota’s first win against Dallas?

Literally nothing. The Wolves beat a Dallas team that wasn’t mentally ready for the season to start yet. They did it in Minnesota in front of a jazzed crowd, with Beasley and Barea both contributing significantly. And, on the other hand, Dallas had Dirk.

Tonight’s game could go either way, but don’t expect Minnesota to win just because they beat Dallas earlier this season, and don’t expect Dallas to lose just because Dirk is out. Dallas has been excellent at home this season (7-2), and they have been hot lately. This team is more than just Dirk.

#3. How worried should we be about Rubio’s 5 turnover performance against Houston?

For my money? Not worried at all. We have been spoiled watching Rubio play like a point guard well beyond his years so far this season. He has made smart decisions, especially (oddly) shooting the ball, and he has led Minnesota to seven wins so far.

But we can’t expect a point guard experiencing his first year of NBA basketball to be perfect. Rubio is going to make mistakes, he’s going to have bad games, and we are going to have to suffer through them with him. That’s the trade off of getting a flashy player like Rubio. On his off nights, just remember this. It will help with the pain.

The Key Matchups

We saw a preview of Jason Kidd vs Ricky Rubio earlier this year, but now Rubio is in the starting lineup. Of course, he was essentially playing starter’s minutes before, but now he’s playing EXTRA starter’s minutes. So. There’s that.

Elsewhere, Shawn Marion has been playing very well in Dirk’s absence. On Wes Johnson’s DraftExpress profile, it lists his best case scenario as a Shawn Marion-type player. They will probably get some minutes tonight guarding each other, if Wes is back in the lineup. If not, Derrick Williams played a serviceable, if not amazing, game in his first start against Houston, and he’s certainly strong enough to fight Marion off in the post. Whether or not he can get out and defend the three point line against Marion may remain to be seen.

Remember when we were all crowing about how deep Minnesota’s bench ran? That was nice. Now we see Minnesota’s bench going just nine deep. Against Houston, every starter played over 30 minutes save Darko, and Love played over 40, while Wayne Ellington played 34 off the bench. No wonder Wayne needed a cryogenic bath.

The Outlook

I’m hesitant to be too optimistic, since the Wolves are exhausted and undermanned, but it’s tough to be too down about playing the Mavericks when Dirk Nowitzki will spend the evening suited up like Barney Stinson. But it’s a road game against the defending champs. Don’t expect anything easy.

Game starts at 7:30 on Fox Sports North.

About Jonah Steinmeyer

Been a Wolves fan for probably way too long to be considered a sane human anymore. An avid golfer in my free time.