Preview: Spurs to Face Luka Doncic as Mavs Star Returns from Injury

After missing four games, Luka Doncic will be back in action for the Dallas Mavericks (19-10) against the San Antonio Spurs (12-17). Doncic is an early-season MVP candidate as the 20-year-old is averaging 29.3 points, 9.6 rebounds and 8.9 assists. Obviously, tonight’s game just became that much more difficult for the Spurs.

It’d be difficult to overstate how well Doncic was playing this season prior to his ankle injury. Here’s perhaps the clearest way to put the Slovenian’s dominance in perspective: He’s on pace to post the fourth highest PER (31.71) in NBA history, as he’s currently tied with Michael Jordan’s best season.

Most likely, the Spurs will begin with Dejounte Murray on Doncic. Murray’s speed and acceleration will be a good test for Doncic’s ankle. Off the bench, Derrick White should also get minutes on him. If 6-foot-7 Doncic’s size and strength become too much of an issue, expect DeMar DeRozan to defend him at times. 

The Spurs will hope to have much more success against Doncic than they had earlier this season, when he went off for 42 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds as Dallas beat San Antonio by a final score of 117-110.

Christmas Dreams of a New Normal for the Spurs

Last game, the Spurs shot the lights out in Memphis, dismantling the Grizzlies by a final score of 145-115. While the amazing shooting performance was most likely an aberration, Spurs fans can hope for some carryover during this holiday season.

The Spurs don’t need to shoot 67.4% against the Mavs like they did against the Grizzlies in order to get a win tonight in Dallas. However, they do need the starters to avoid digging the team into a deep hole. With as well as the starting five looked last time out, that now doesn’t seem like a longshot of a proposition.

DeMar DeRozan’s Road Dominance

So far this season, DeRozan has been a lot better on the road compared to at home. In 13 road games, he’s averaging 23.5 points in 32.8 minutes per game on 60.1% shooting from the floor. In 16 home games, the 30-year-old is averaging 18.8 points in 34.4 minutes per game on 43.8% shooting.

For his career, DeRozan is shooting slightly better on the road than at home. Why is he playing so much better on the road this season? Perhaps he feels pressure to perform in front of his home fans, especially with his contract extension in the back of his mind. More likely, though, this is a case of a small sample size. Regardless, let’s hope those road numbers translate to a big performance this evening against the Mavs.