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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Dallas Mavericks

The Spurs will face their in state rivals on the second game of a back-to-back.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs will be facing the Mavericks on Wednesday on the second game of a back-to-back following Tuesday’s impressive win against the Magic. The last time the two teams met Dallas run away with it, winning 142-116 with standout performances from their stars, but things could be different this time around.

Luka Doncic, who dropped 28 points and logged 10 assists in the last matchup will be out and it’s possible Kyrie Irving will sit out the game as well. Without those two it might be hard for the Mavericks to put enough points on the board to make up for a defense that has been among the worst in the league all season. In front of them will be the Spurs, which have been atrocious at getting stops and will surely have several absences of their own to worry about if history is any indication, so Dallas should still be favored to win if Irving is not a scratch. San Antonio has shocked better teams a few times this season and is coming off a scorching hot offensive display, however, so an upset isn’t out of the question.

San Antonio Spurs (18-50) vs. Dallas Mavericks (34-35)

March 15, 2023 | 7:30 p.m. CT

Watch: KENS5 | Listen: WOAI/KXTN

Spurs injuries (likely to change): Khem Birch — Out (knee), Malaki Branham — Out (shoulder), Charles Bassey — Out (knee), Keldon Johnson — Questionable (foot), Tre Jones — Questionable (non-covid illness) Romeo Langford — Out (adductor)

Mavericks injuries: Luka Doncic — Out (thigh), Kyrie Irving — Questionable (foot), Tim Hardaway Jr. — Questionable (calf), Christian Wood — Questionable (foot)

What to watch for

Who will actually suit up?

The main question in every Spurs game, but especially back-to-backs, is who will actually be available. There were not a lot of absences in the game against the Magic but Gregg Popovich has erred on the side of caution most of the season when it comes to load management, which makes it really hard to figure out what version of the team will be around for each game.

On the other side is a Mavericks team that has ruled out Doncic but also has Irving, Hardaway Jr. and Wood listed as questionable. Dallas needs every win it can to try to avoid the play-in games, but pushing their star guard to play through pain might not be smart. At this point, it’s hard to project who will be leading the offense for the Mavericks.

The threes probably won’t fall again, but that’s fine

Against the Magic, the Spurs set a franchise record for made three-pointers with 22, which is twice as many as they average for the season. Needless to say, expecting a similar performance again seems foolish, especially against the team that allows the third-lowest number of attempts per game from beyond the arc. Even if the team creates open looks, it’s unlikely guys like Keita-Bates Diop and Jeremy Sochan will sink them consistently. What can be replicated from Tuesday’s win is the ball movement. Many Spurs emphasized how much they liked seeing the rock being shared after the game against the Magic, in which San Antonio had 39 assists. Finding ways to drive, make the defense collapse and find the open man will be key to scoring, no matter who suits up.

The backup center spot could be wide open

Charles Bassey left the game against the Magic with an injury that could sideline him for a while, which means the minutes as Zach Collins’ backup could be opening up. Sandro Mamukelashvili will probably get the bulk of them but it will be interesting to see if Dominick Barlow also gets a crack at them in smaller lineups. The two could also easily coexist if there are some absences since Mamu has range and Barlow offers athleticism and defense, and there’s always Gorgui Dieng to go to if nothing else is working. It will be interesting to see how Gregg Popovich splits the backup center playing time and we’ll get the first crack at seeing which way he’s leaning toward in the game against the Mavs.

For the Magic fan’s perspective, visit Mavs Moneyball.

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