If ever there was a game in which the Dallas Mavericks must win, it’s the game tonight against the Atlanta Hawks. Currently the Hawks are sitting in 5th place and poised to make the playoffs. Meanwhile Dallas, after the heartbreaking loss to Oklahoma City Thunder last night, currently sits four games out of the final spot in Western Conference.
News came out earlier today that Kobe Bryant will be sitting out tonight’s contest when the Los Angeles Lakers play the Phoenix Suns. Ever since Bryant guaranteed the Lakers would make the playoffs three weeks ago, he has put them on his back and carried them. If he is going to miss some time because of the ankle injury, it is extremely important that Dallas takes care of business.
Of course, the task isn’t an easy one for the Mavericks. Atlanta is 37 – 29 overall and 21 – 11 at home, while Dallas comes into the game 31 – 35 overall and 13 – 22 away from the American Airlines Center. Atlanta is also giving up just under 97 points per game. Tonight’s game is also big because it opens up a stretch where eight of the next nine games will be played against teams currently in the playoff picture.
In order for the Mavericks to win this game they have to do two things. First of all, they have to close out games better. Against the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night and against the Thunder last night, the Mavericks had a chance to win the game at the end, but on both occasions the other team made the plays and Dallas did not.
Secondly, they have to get Dirk Nowitzki involved later in games. Last night, he put on a shooting clinic against the Thunder; for the first couple of quarters that is. Dirk scored 23 points by midway through the third and only took two shots after that and none in the final quarter. That is unacceptable for the Mavericks. You cannot have your best player not shooting the ball in the fourth quarter of a close game. If that happens again tonight, the Mavericks should start planning for the lottery.