The Pick: Mavericks 109-97
Dallas and Denver are two teams that came into this season with playoff aspirations, and while both are keeping their head above water for the time being, neither team has played well away from home this season, a trend I expect to continue tonight.
The Mavericks are 7-1 at home this season (as opposed to 2-4 on the road) and have tallied at least 118 points in three of those contests. The Nuggets are just 1-4 on the road this season (5-2 at home) with their lone victory coming against the 1-14 Utah Jazz. Denver got the better of Dallas in their first matchup (102-100 in Denver), but that hardly seems like a repeatable outcome.
First of all, that game featured a Dallas team that had played the night before against a rested Denver team. Even if you take the lack of rest and home-court advantage out of the equation, there were many statistics that left me unconvinced. For example, the Nuggets buried 11 3-pointers (three more than their season average and 4.2 above the amount of bombs that they make on the road) and got a perfect performance from Kenneth Faried, who didn’t miss a shot in 31 minutes of action.
As far as the Mavericks are concerned, Dirk Nowitzki, whose shooting percentage increases nearly 20 percent when he has one day of rest, made only nine of his 22 field goals attempts, and Monta Ellis had twice as many turnovers as assists. In addition to their big guns not delivering stellar performances, the Mavs’ second-tier players failed to contribute. Shane Larkin, Jae Crowder, Shawn Marion and Samuel Dalembart combined to score just 11 points on 14.3 percent shooting from the field (the quartet averages 33 points on 53.4 percent shooting at home).
I love me some good free throw shooting teams that can cover a spread down the stretch, and the Mavericks can do just that. They not only rank in the top-10 in total free throw attempts, but they are converting them at the second-highest rate in the league (81.1 percent). Dallas also ranks among the top six teams in the NBA when it comes to points per shot and aFG%, while the Nuggets are hovering around the league average in both scoring efficiency categories.
Fun Fact: Denver is allowing opponents to convert 3-pointers at the seventh-highest rate in the league, while Dallas is making 3-pointers at the seventh-highest rate in the league.