The Mavs dominated in a 127-99 win against Denver two days ago. Doing it again would be twice as nice – and maybe twice as tough.

This is the third season of a new era in NBA scheduling, with more and more teams now making two-game stops on the road to save some travel wear-and-tear throughout the season. This comes in especially handy for teams based in the west, like Denver for example, who already spend far more time on planes than other teams in the league. It’s an efficient way to manage travel, but it also creates mini-series, a chance for teams to work on playoff-style preparation for bouncing back after a loss or even trying to win both legs of the two-game set.

Winning both has proven to be awfully tough for teams around the NBA. It’s difficult to beat any team twice in a row, no matter their record or yours, because teams will adjust. Doubling Luka didn’t work? Let’s surprise them with more 2-3 zone. Notice a weak spot in the Mavs defense after watching film? Let’s exploit that next time. The losing team immediately has a chance to correct their mistakes and respond in a big way.

Last season, Dallas played four two-game sets and had a 1-1 split in three of them. The lone exception came in a November road series at Phoenix, with the Mavs losing two narrow games without Luka Dončić. During the 2020-21 season, the Mavs played six such series, splitting three of them, sweeping one of them, and losing both twice.

Often in the NBA, you’re already thinking about the next game immediately after the last one ends. That can’t really be the case, though, when you’re about to play the same team again. You have to think long and hard about what just happened, whether you won or lost, because it’s all going to come into play again the next time out. If you’re the Mavs, you must expect a few major changes from the Nuggets in this game. Shorthanded as they may be, Denver is still going to play with something to prove tonight, trying to avoid losing to the same team twice in a row. Meanwhile, Dallas can’t get too comfortable. The Mavs used a huge run in the third quarter on Friday night to blow open the game, but it was a close, back-and-forth affair for the most part before that point. Denver will adjust, and Dallas will need to adjust to those adjustments. On goes the chess match.

What might we see? Well, let’s start with Luka. He recorded career triple-double No. 50 on Friday night, leading the team with 33 points and 11 assists despite constant double-teams. Will the Nuggets increase the pressure even more, or will they stay home on shooters? Christian Wood scored 28 off the bench. Might he face some double-teams instead? The Mavs shot 73.3 percent on 2-point shots on Friday night, the third highest percentage in a game in franchise history. You bet Denver will try to do more to protect the rim, but how do you do that while also putting pressure on Luka 30 feet from the basket? And if the Nuggets are able to solve any of these puzzles, how will the Mavericks respond? It turns out coaching is complicated, and we’ll see it all play out tonight in real-time.

Personally, I’m a big fan of these mini-series. They give us all a good glimpse into the thought processes of both clubs and coaching staffs, as we’ll see very clearly any changes they make and how the players respond to those changes. It’s a small, tiny preview of what we could expect come April – and hopefully May and beyond.


When: 630, Sunday.

Where: American Airlines Center, Dallas.

TV: Bally’s Sports Southwest.

Radio: 97.1 The Freak, 99.1 FM Zona MX (Spanish).

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