DALLAS — The Dallas Mavericks will look for their third consecutive win as they welcome the Atlanta Hawks to the AAC. The Wednesday evening matchup will greet a national audience on ESPN as Dallas continues to soft-open their arena for fans.
Frontline workers will be receiving free entry so long as they have received at least one dosage of a COVID-19 vaccine, with social distancing made easier for a max capacity crowd of 1,500 in an arena that can normally host close to 20,000.
The visiting Hawks are one of a few NBA teams that were already allowing fan attendance, as they opened their arena to 1,300 season ticket holders in late January and made NBA Twitter erupt last week when a courtside situation developed between the visiting Los Angeles Lakers and a couple of Hawks faithful.
No courtside drama is to be expected in Dallas, but there will be plenty of intrigue in the storyline that has followed franchise stalwarts Luka Dončić and Trae Young since their draft-night trade for each other in 2018.
Most MFFLs have gotten over the weirdness of undoctored photos of Luka Dončić in an ATL hat, and both franchises should be pretty ecstatic for a rare trade that seems to have worked out for all parties involved.
In his third season, Young continues to fine-tune his repertoire. The former Oklahoma Sooner is currently sporting a career-high in free throw percentage, nearing 90%. He’s also increased his free throw attempts to nearly eleven per game, more than double (4.1 per game) from 2019-2020.
Dončić, meanwhile (27.8 points per game), is third in the league in the point guard scoring hierarchy, with Young right behind him at 26.7 per game. Dončić (25.51) and Young (23.07) are also 3rd and 4th respectively in Player Efficiency Rating (PER) among point guards, with only Bay Area legends Steph Curry and Damian Lillard ahead of them for both categories.
As for dimes, Dončić and Young are neck and neck at 9.3 to 9.2. Dončić is first among point guards in assists and second overall only to James Harden’s league-leading 11.2 assists per game.
Dallas and Dončić faced Young and the Hawks twice during their rookie campaigns with the two squads splitting the season series. Dončić missed both games last season when Young’s Hawks also went 1-1 against Dallas with Dončić out with an injury. In the most recent matchup on February 3, Dončić and the Mavs got the better of Young and the Hawks with a 122-116 victory in Atlanta.
Dončić put up 27 points while dishing 14 assists and collecting 8 rebounds to outpace Young’s 21 points, 9 assists, 4 rebounds evening.
While both star PGs are the obvious focal points of their offenses, Young’s supporting cast is currently in turmoil just as Dallas is seeing its team come to full strength. Problems for Atlanta include offseason additions – and Summer 2020 members of the Mavs’ wishlist – Danilo Gallinari and Bogdan Bogdanovic being neutralized by injuries.
Infamous former Maverick Rajon Rondo has been neutralized via bad basketball play, as well. Rondo played 11 minutes in the matchup against Dallas on February 3 and 11 in Atlanta’s last game against the Raptors and has been mostly relegated to the bench as the Hawks scour the trade market for a back-court replacement.
Second-year forward De’Andre Hunter had settled into the second-leading scorer role prior to leaving the lineup in late January with issues with his right knee. Forward John Collins has stepped up as the new secondary scorer flanking Young and looks to be playing the part until he’s likely traded before the deadline.
Collins averaged over 21 points per game in the bubble last summer and scored 35 on the Mavericks in their last matchup a week ago. The former 19th overall pick of the 2017 draft will look to be a formidable matchup for an aggressive Kristaps Porziņģis who is playing with renewed confidence along with the Dallas frontcourt.
2019 4th overall pick Hunter had arguably been Atlanta’s best perimeter defender this season, a necessity in the backcourt for the Hawks as Young continues to shine on offense but needs a defensive anchor on the other side. Count on the Mavericks to aim to exploit this as Rick Carlisle finally has a fully available roster.
Dallas will need fresh bodies as Young and the Hawks arrive fully rested, with their previous game action coming last Saturday. Though it is billed as the fourth round of Luka vs Trae, for the Mavericks, they’re just hoping to continue winning as they emerge from their season’s toughest stretch.
Do you think the Mavericks will be able to beat Trae Young and the Hawks to continue their winning streak? Make your predictions with Irvin on Twitter @Twittirv.