Thursday night’s Southwest Division showdown at American Airlines Center in Dallas will see the San Antonio Spurs (12-17; 9-19-1 ATS) take on the Dallas Mavericks (19-10; 17-12 ATS) for the second time this season. Back in November, the Mavs outlasted the Spurs 117-110 as 4.5-point home favorites, recording their first win over San Antonio since 2017. This is a hot-blooded rivalry, so we expect to see a great game between two playoff contenders. The Mavericks are No. 5 seed in the West at the moment, while the Spurs are one game behind the No. 8 seed.
After sitting out the last four games, Luka Doncic (ankle) could return for the Mavericks. He went through practice yesterday and is listed as questionable. Luka’s return would be a massive boost for Dallas, as he’s averaging 29.3 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 8.9 assists per game this term. All other hosts’ players are ready to go, while the Spurs are coming in full strength.
Even if Doncic returns, he could get restricted minutes, but the Mavs opened as 6.5-point favorites with the total at 226.5 points.
What’s at Stake?
It’s a big game, especially for the Spurs who’s struggled mightily so far. The Mavs will be fired up to beat their division rivals after 15 losses in the previous 18 matchups with the Spurs.
Both teams have been hit-or-miss over the last few weeks, winning five of their previous nine games overall. Also, they are 1-4 SU in the last five outings following a straight-up win. The Spurs are coming off an excellent 145-115 victory at the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday, while the Mavs didn’t play since a 110-107 loss at the Toronto Raptors this past Sunday.
Back in November, the Spurs had an eight-game slide and one of their losses came in Dallas 117-110. The Mavs dominated for most of the game leading by 14 points at the end of the third quarter, but the Spurs cut the deficit to two points with 4:38 left on the clock in the fourth quarter. It was a nail-biter down the stretch, and Luka Doncic’s triple with 26.5 seconds to play put the Mavs up 115-110. Luka finished the game with 42 points, 12 assists, and 11 rebounds, becoming the second-youngest player to have a 40-point triple-double.
That tells you a lot about Luka’s influence on the Mavericks. Even though the Mavs have proved they can be dangerous without Doncic, beating the Bucks 120-116 and Sixers 117-98 on the road, they are a completely different team with Luka on the floor. While the Mavs’ offensive rating is the best in the league (115.8), they’ve been scoring 110.4 points per 100 possessions over the last four outings without Doncic. Dallas’ defensive rating is 15th in the league (107.7), and the Spurs are certainly capable of dealing with the Mavs’ D.
San Antonio scores 108.9 points per 100 possessions (15th in the league), but the Spurs have been struggling defensively all season long. They allow 111.4 points per 100 possessions (22nd) including 49.7 points in the paint (also 22nd). The Spurs lack defensive awareness and a true rim protector. LaMarcus Aldridge has never been a great defensive stopper, while his form has been questionable this season. Aldridge has dropped 40 points on Memphis last time out after scoring only 12 against the Clippers at home.
While Aldridge will have a tough matchup with Kristaps Porzingis and Dwight Powell, DeMar DeRozan will try to take advantage of the Mavericks’ backcourt. DeRozan poured in 36 points on 14-for-20 shooting in that 117-110 loss in Dallas. The Mavericks will need more from Tim Hardaway Jr. on both sides of the ball, while Jalen Brunson should get big minutes after dishing 9.2 assists per game in Luka Doncic’s absence.
Even if Luka Doncic returns, I expect to see a close game. The Spurs are coming off a 145-point performance in Memphis and should be full of confidence against the Mavericks’ fragile defense. Therefore, I would rather go with the over on the totals instead of taking the side bet. The first duel of the season went in the over of a 224-point line, and I expect to see similar chalk in this one. Still, the betting trends are against me, as the under has hit in six of the last eight meetings between Dallas and San Antonio at American Airlines Center.
If you like prop bets, consider taking DeMar DeRozan in the over on his point total. When it comes to covering the spread, the Mavericks are 10-3 ATS in their last 13 encounters with the Spurs. However, the Mavericks are only 1-6 ATS in their previous seven meetings with the Spurs when listed as favorites. Dallas is 8-1 ATS in its last nine games against a team with a losing record, while San Antonio is 4-1 ATS in its previous five contests against a team with a winning record. I’m sticking with the totals, but taking the Spurs with an alternative line at 9.5 points and -180 odds is another interesting option.