Pistons vs Mavericks preview: Luka Doncic in the Motor City

Detroit Bad Boys

It’s been a weird season for the Dallas Mavericks. They’ve battled injuries, inconsistency and outside criticism throughout the year, yet they currently sit in the sixth spot out west with a 34-27 record. They’ve shaken off their early struggles and appear determined to do everything they can to avoid playing in the dreaded play-in tournament.

Game Vitals

When: 7 p.m. EST

Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, Michigan

Watch: Bally Sports Detroit / NBA League Pass

Odds: Pistons +8.5

Analysis

It can be hard to sit through Pistons games late in a season like this, but games like this make it worthwhile. Luke Doncic is just that good. The Mavs do-it-all dynamo is just so much fun to watch. He really does it all, averaging 28.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 8.7 assists per game while hitting a career-best 36% from downtown on eight attempts per game. If there was one bugaboo for Luka and his game, it was his up-and-down shooting. He’s pretty much shut that one down this season.

But he’s also reached that point in his ascent to superstardom where commentators, those masters of debate on TV, begin to try and poke holes in even the smallest holes in his game. I thought that treatment was reserved for LeBron and KD these days but turns out Luka’s name is unfortunately in that echo chamber now, too.

Dallas will be without a pair of starters in Kristaps Porzingis (ankle) and Josh Richardson (hamstring), but I don’t think that’ll change too much for the Pistons. They still need to figure out how to contain Doncic—which they can’t. However, Jalen Brunson could be the key tonight. The reserve from Villanova is in the midst of a career year, averaging 12.5 points, 3.5 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game and poured in an effortless 20 points off the bench in the Mavs’ win over the Pistons earlier this month.

Another player who has been balling out lately for Dallas is Dorian Finney-Smith. The glue guy has turned up his scoring lately, averaging 14 points and 5 rebounds while hitting 3.3 triples per game over the last two weeks.

If Detroit somehow keeps Luka under control and shuts down Brunson and DFS, they’ve got a shot to keep this close. That’s easier said than done with Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee, Cory Joseph, and Wayne Ellington out.

That means kids are getting the keys to the car tonight. Hopefully, it’s a sign of things to come over this final string of regular season games.

Projected Lineups

Detroit Pistons (19-43)

Killian Hayes, Josh Jackson, Saddiq Bey, Sekou Doumbouya, Isaiah Stewart

Dallas Mavericks (34-27)

Luka Doncic, Trey Burke, Dwight Powell, Maxi Kleber, Dorian Finney-Smith

Question of the Game

How far can a healthy Mavericks team go in the playoffs this season?

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