When: Saturday, January 4th, 8:30 pm EST
Where: American Airlines Center; Dallas, Texas
How to watch: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
If you’re more of a Hornets fan than a general NBA fan and you haven’t yet experienced the delight of watching Luka Doncic perform his basketball variety show, please tune in tonight. It’s beautiful. (In full transparency, Doncic is on my fantasy hoops team so I’ve spent many a late evening watching him rack up triple doubles.) It really is incredible what Luka is achieving as a 20-year-old NBA sophomore. His averages of 29.1 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 8.9 assists are simply incredible and each exceed what LeBron James did in his second NBA season. We very well may be watching the NBA’s next generational talent.
And Doncic isn’t just racking up hollow triple doubles on a bad team. He’s led the Mavericks to a surprising 22-12 record. Dallas has a +7.6 average point differential which is highest in the Western Conference (the Los Angeles Lakers are second at +7.3) despite the fact that center Kristaps Porzingis is still somewhat integrating himself into the team and the rest of the Mavs roster is a collection of NBA players who are “solid” but not “spectacular.” Among those 22 wins are victories against the Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers, Denver Nuggets, and Toronto Raptors. Dallas can beat any team on any given night.
Dallas has the NBA’s best offense. Their offensive rating of 115.2 is comfortably ahead of the second place Houston Rockets 114.0 rating. They are also careful about taking care of the ball and their 12.9 percent turnover percentage is tied for the best in the league. They also have one of the best coaches in the league in Rick Carlisle.
Despite the Mavs success so far, it’s still possible the Hornets can pull off a big road win. Dallas will be without its second and third leading scorers. Porzingis (17.3 PPG) has been ruled out with a sore right knee while Tim Hardaway Jr. (13.7 PPG) is out with a hamstring injury. Outside of Luka missing the game, this is about as good of a chance to win as the Hornets could ask for.
A Hornets win will probably require solid games from both Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo who will be given ample opportunity to control the boards and keep Doncic out of the paint. With Porzingis sitting the Mavs will need to rely heavily on Maxi Kleber, Dwight Powell, and 7-foot-4 Boban Marjanovic, none of whom average more than 8.5 points or 5.5 rebounds per game, possibly giving the Hornets the advantage in the post. Zeller and Biyombo can also clog up the paint without Porzingis and Hardaway Jr. spacing the floor, thus preventing many of the easy layups Doncic is able to generate most games.
Even without two of their starters, the Dallas Mavericks are still a tough team to beat. They’re a balanced, capable, well-coached team with a player in Luka Doncic who is in the discussion of potential MVP candidates. The Hornets just snapped a six-game losing streak by narrowly beating the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers by three points, so it’s not like Charlotte is coming in with tons of momentum.
A road victory against the Dallas Mavericks would be a statement win for the 2019-2020 Charlotte Hornets, even with the Mavs’ injuries. Let’s see what type of statement the Hornets are ready to make.