Record (Conference): 19-22 (11-17)
Standing: 14th – Western Conference
The Mavericks last played on Wednesday, meaning that their squad should be well-rested when they visit Minnesota on January 11. Despite the Mavs’ current 14th place standing, they’ve been a competitive team in what has been an absolute bloodbath of a western conference. The team has not fared well well on the road thus far however, and their 3-18 record away from the American Airlines Center is the worst in the league. If Dallas wants to leave Minnesota with the W, they’ll likely need big performances from Luka Doncic, Harrison Barnes, and DeAndre Jordan, especially considering that Dennis Smith Jr. is still out with a back injury.
Luka Doncic, the current front-runner for 2019 Rookie of the Year has played excellently over the Mavericks last 10 games. He’s averaged 22.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists on 43.3% shooting from the field, an improvement from his season averages of 19.8 points 6.7 rebounds and 4.9 assists on 43.5% shooting. Doncic scored 27 in a Tuesday loss against the Lakers, however on Wednesday he poured in 30 points and led the Mavs to victory over the Suns. If Doncic continues to get buckets and facilitate the offense as he has recently, then the Mavericks have a chance to steal a crucial game in a competitive conference.
Harrison Barnes has been a consistent force across the last 10, putting up 17.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 1 assist on 42.1% from the field, which is similar to his season averages of 18 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.1 assists on 42% shooting. Also look for DeAndre Jordan to make an impact, especially on the boards and on the defensive end against a red hot Karl-Anthony Towns.
Record (Conference): 20-21 (10-15)
Standing: 11th – Western Conference
The Timberwolves last played Tuesday, so they should be well-rested as well when they square off against Dallas. The Wolves are currently on a three game winning streak, and they boast an impressive 14-6 record at the Target Center this season, though there are still concerns for the team. Minnesota has been hampered by injuries, and while Derrick Rose has been upgraded from out to questionable for Friday’s game, Robert Covington is still out indefinitely with his ankle injury. The organization also recently fired head coach Tom Thibodeau, and although Ryan Saunders was victorious in his first game as coach, it remains to be seen if the 32 year old coach is a good fit for the team. If Derrick Rose (who is currently second in western conference All-Star voting for guards) returns, the Timberwolves will have another dependable option on offense. If not, the squad should look to their young duo of Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, who have both been solid as of late.
Towns has performed above his season averages of 22.1 points, 12.3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1.9 blocks on 49.6% from the field in his last 10 games. His stats have risen across the board to 24.9 points on 51.7% shooting to go along with 13.8 rebounds, an impressive 4.5 assists and 2.1 blocks per game.
Wiggins has excelled on the offensive end in the Wolves’ last 10 games, averaging 22.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.8 assists on 41.4% shooting, an improvement from his season averages of 17.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.4 assists on 40.5% from the field.
If Towns can continue to dominate on both ends of the floor and Wiggins can continue to excel offensively, the Timberwolves should be able to keep their winning streak alive.
Overall, I like the way that Minnesota has been playing lately a lot more than the way Dallas has. The Mavericks heavily rely on rookie Luka Doncic to carry the team to victory, whereas the Timberwolves seem to have more options on the offensive end. While injuries are preventing Minnesota from reaching their full-potential, they appear to be a motivated squad under new head coach Ryan Saunders, and I think they should come out victorious on Friday night.
Pick: Minnesota Timberwolves (-5)