When Atlanta's Trae Young and Dallas' Luka Doncic meet twice each year, the games often are a showcase for the two stars, who were traded for one another during the first round of the 2018 NBA Draft.
But when the teams meet for the final time this season on Sunday in Atlanta, there are playoff implications on the line for both clubs. The Hawks are trying to upgrade their status in the upcoming play-in tournament, while the Mavericks are trying to get over the hump and climb into the top 10
The Hawks (38-39) remain tied with Toronto for No. 8 in the Eastern Conference after their 124-107 loss at Brooklyn on Friday. The Hawks are 2 1/2 games behind No. 7 Miami with five games remaining
The Mavericks (37-41) are coming off a 129-122 loss at Miami on Saturday. Dallas, which has lost two straight and six of its past seven games, is No. 11 in the Western Conference and trails Oklahoma City by one game for the final play-in spot
"It wasn't the offense that was suffering, it was the defense that was suffering," Dallas coach Jason Kidd said. "We're trying to get stops and when we'd get one we'd throw it away. We've got to do a better job taking care of the ball when we do get stops."
Young and Doncic, the two focal points, are both having good statistical seasons.
Young is averaging 26.3 points and 9.9 assists. He had back-to-back double-doubles against Memphis and Cleveland, but followed that up with a 10-point, six-assist effort against Brooklyn. He has scored 20 points only once in the past four games.
Doncic is averaging a career-high 32.9 points to go with 8.7 rebounds and 8.1 assists. He recorded 42 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists on Saturday. He has 35 double-doubles and 10 triple-doubles this season.
In nine career games against Dallas, Young is averaging 19.8 points and 9.7 assists. In seven career games against Atlanta, Doncic is averaging 23.7 points, 8.9 rebounds and 8.3 assists.
The Hawks and Mavericks met on Jan. 18 in Dallas with Atlanta taking a 130-122 win. The Hawks shot 57.0 percent from the floor, 13 of 26 on 3-pointers and 19 of 20 from the line, with Dejounte Murray scoring 30 points. Doncic also scored 30
Over the past nine games, the Hawks have alternated wins and losses and have been unable to get past the .500 mark. Despite the inability to improve their playoff standing, coach Quin Snyder has been pleased with the effort shown by his team
"They continue to compete," Snyder said. "That's the measure I want to hold us to and our guys to hold themselves to so we'll be all right when the shots don't fall. Overall I was disappointed (against the Nets) because we knew it was a big game, but I thought we competed."
The Mavericks will be completing their 13th back-to-back of the season; they are 3-9 in the second games of back-to-backs. This will mark their final road game before closing with three games at home
"A lot of these guys haven't been in this situation," Kidd said. "They're learning on the fly what it feels like and what it means to have to go out there and win. Most of our guys are young and learning."
--Field Level Media