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Published Time: 29.05.2024 - 22:05:51 Modified Time: 29.05.2024 - 22:05:51

As Dallas returns to Minnesota, this time looking for a gentleman’s sweep, here are a few key things to keep an eye on as the world impatiently awaits the emergence of its next Western Conference victor. Dallas Mavericks, Timberwolves, Mavericks

As Dallas returns to Minnesota, this time looking for a gentleman’s sweep, here are a few key things to keep an eye on as the world impatiently awaits the emergence of its next Western Conference victor.

P.J. Washington’s 3-ball played a big factor in the Dallas/OKC series, but it hasn’t been sinking the past few games; in fact, he hasn’t had a major offensive contribution game total since that series. He continues to supply high-quality defense (and it’s not as if his offense has been dreadful), but key offensive production from role players is a big part of the formula for success on any team. Drilling a higher percentage of shots from deep would go a long way in providing that needed aspect. He was two of nine from three in Tuesday’s loss. Derrick Jones Jr, Josh Green, and Jaden Hardy went 2-3, 1-3, and 3-4 from deep, respectively. These guys are working their butts off on defense, but their catch-and-shoot contributions are currently a bit lacking.

Hardy has been doing a solid job of staying ready to play, especially as someone who hasn’t seen much action until recently, but he can be a bit reckless with the ball, which is known to cause irritability and abdominal stress in individuals who suffer from game anxiety. As any basketball fan is aware, shooting percentages can be a little streaky. If one or more of these guys can step up with a big contribution from beyond the arch Minneapolis, it could most certainly ease the burden from the backs of what many are already calling one of the best backcourt duos of all-time; which leads us to our next question…

Luka managed to put up a 28-point triple-double in Tuesday’s loss, which certainly isn’t a bad game by anyone’s standards, but it wasn’t his most efficient performance as he went just 7-21 from the field and 4-11 from deep. He did sink a ridiculous circus-3 late in the fourth that almost begat a miraculous, last minute come from behind victory. Kyrie was 6-18 and 1-6 from deep, tacking on 16 points in 42 minutes.

As a Dallas fan, it’s all too easy to take for granted that these two will always combine for 65+ points on a nightly basis. Their greatness sets the parameters for very high scoring projections, and without question, they hold themselves to even loftier expectations than their fans do. They are not immune from having an off game, but if recent history can shine any light on what to expect moving forward, it would seem as if at least one of them will respond with a statement game on Thursday. Implacable competitiveness and intellectual virtuosity for a game is anything but a weak potion.

As seen in the first two games in Minnesota, making big-time plays (on either end of the court) can go a long way in shutting down a crowd’s energy and shifting momentum. Daniel Gafford has provided more than his share, screaming as he completes the oop end of some ridiculously high lobs, as well as rejecting some shots into outer space while performing in the very likable role of Landlord on defense.

These high-flying plays generate a lot of electricity from the Mav’s bench and it goes without saying that Luka and Kyrie can make any crowd gasp in awe. You can hear it during the game broadcast when they almost casually do something you’ve never seen before; it has a particularly pleasant ring to it when the awes are coming from the opponent’s fans. The point, though, is that the momentum really starts to pile up when Derrick Jones Jr. or Washington sneak in a monster dunk or start hitting multiple clutch threes.

Plays like these aren’t just nice to see, they can initiate game-altering offensive runs for as long as major momentum can be seized, and it can keep the opposing defense honest, freeing up Luka and Kai to do what they do. If the basketball gods are kind to us, hopefully we’ll see one or two big DJJ rim-rattlers in the first half of Thursday’s game 5. Once they start that water running, it’s hard to turn it off.