• It’s been a quiet week for the Wolves, which in the NBA world is typically a good thing. There were no major injuries during practice, no leaked stories about any scandals and no major shakeups.

    In fact there was some good news with rookie first rounder Justin Patton making his debut in the G-League, scoring 15 points, and grabbing seven rebounds and four blocks. Highlights of his game can be seen here.

    The Wolves returned home on December 7 and don’t have to leave again until the 19th. It marks the first true homestand that the Wolves have really had on the season, even going back to training camp. The Wolves had the two games in China and spent much of training camp overseas, then have been one of the most traveled teams to start the season.

    Not only is this a welcome change of pace for this team, there are also a number of winnable games on the homestand beginning with the 7-19 Dallas Mavericks. This is already the third time these teams have faced, with Minnesota winning the first two in blowouts both times.

    Each of those games Dennis Smith Jr. was active, though his status is unclear in this one. He might miss his second game with a hip injury.

    Whether or not Smith plays, the Mavs will heavily rely on Harrison Barnes as the key to their offense. Typically playing at a slower pace, the Mavs like to move the ball around and take an open 3-point shot if possible (they rank fourth as a team in 3-point attempts) though will feed it to Barnes if they don’t get a good look.

    Pretty much the main players in Rick Carlisle’s rotation all are willing to take a 3-pointer, and those who don’t find themselves riding the pine. Every player with at least 16 minutes per game is averaging at least one 3-point attempt per game, and that includes center Maxi Kleber.

    Kleber has somewhat separated himself from the rest of the pack in terms of earning minutes at the center position thanks to his willingness to step out and shoot. On the other hand Mejri and Noel (who’s now injured) do not extend out of the paint much at all. Dwight Powell is comfortable shooting from deep, but he gets most of his minutes behind Dirk.

    Basically anytime a Maverick is on the floor, defenders have to respect the 3-point shot because anyone will let loose at any time. Now whether or not teams decide to honor their shots or not is a different story.

    Sure the Mavs take the fourth most 3-pointers in the NBA, but they shoot at a 36.2 percent clip, 18th in the NBA. They certainly strive for quantity over quality.

    Key Matchups:

    – Andrew Wiggins vs. Harrison Barnes

    – Wolves’ defenders vs. the 3-point line

    Jimmy Butler saw some time on Barnes in their previous matchup, as did Taj Gibson. This speaks to the versatility Barnes can bring to the table. He’s quick enough for twos, strong enough for fours, but fits best against most threes. Generally against Gibson, Barnes did not fair well so it’s likely the Mavs stay big the entire game.

    With Wes Matthews on the perimeter as well, the Wolves will likely keep Wiggins on Barnes the majority of the time. Especially if Dennis Smith Jr. is out, Barnes will be the most active and mobile person on the floor for the Mavs, so Wiggins will need to stay just as aggressive.

    With the Mavs surrounding Barnes with four 3-point shooters as well, defenders will have to stay home more often leaving Wiggins to take on the challenge himself. If the Wolves end up bringing soft double-teams to Barnes, players will have to rotate with a purpose to make sure the 3-point shooters are still covered.

    Basically the gameplan against Dallas is to stay close to Harrison Barnes and prevent him from finding his spots, while getting out on 3-point shooters which at any time could be all five players.

    In spurts the Mavs have been able to exploit the leaky Wolves’ defense and find a little bit of a rhythm, but have yet to piece together a full game which have resulted in the blowouts. Should the Wolves’ defense fails to get out on shooters, it could be the time Dallas breaks out. On the season they’re shooting just 27 percent from the arc versus the Wolves.

    Projected Lineups:

    Jeff Teague – PG

    Jimmy Butler – SG

    Andrew Wiggins – SF

    Taj Gibson – PF

    Karl-Anthony Towns – C

    vs.

    Yogi Ferrell – PG

    Wes Matthews – SG

    Harrison Barnes – SF

    Dirk Nowitzki – PF

    Maxi Kleber – C

    Injuries:

    Nemanja Bjelica (foot) – OUT

    Seth Curry (leg) – OUT

    Dorian Finney-Smith (knee) – OUT

    Josh McRoberts (knee) – OUT

    Nerlens Noel (thumb) – OUT

    Dennis Smith Jr. (hip) – OUT

    Where to Watch:

    7:00 ET/6:00 CT on Fox Sports North

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