A new-look Dallas Mavericks team have a chance to test themselves against the best in the West when they make the trip to conference leaders Denver Nuggets.
The Mavs made a huge trade as the deadline approached by bringing in Kyrie Irving from Brooklyn Nets and the 2016 champion has already started to form an understanding with Luka Doncic in Dallas.
Dallas are 2-2 in the four games Irving has played and they face their biggest test so far as they head to a Denver side who boast a 40-18 overall record and are on course to claim the top seed in a highly competitive Western Conference.
|What||Dallas Mavericks @ Denver Nuggets|
|Where||Ball Arena, Portland|
|When||02:00, Thursday 16th February 2023|
|How to watch||bet365 Sports Live Streaming, NBA League Pass|
|Odds||Dallas Mavericks 11/5, Denver Nuggets 10/27|
In Luka Doncic, Dallas have one of the best players in the league and the Slovenian is rated at 8/1 to win the regular season MVP award, but for a long time they have been considered a one-man team.
The arrival of Irving has changed that perception as he is an eight-time All-Star and is regarded as one of the best guards in the league, and he played a key role in helping Cleveland Cavaliers claim the championship in 2016 alongside LeBron James.
However, the Mavs did have to give up a lot to bring in the 30-year-old as Dorian Finney-Smith and Spencer Dinwiddie have moved in the opposite direction, as well as three future draft picks.
Finney-Smith and Dinwiddie may not have the same kind of star quality as Irving but both were regular starters, and Dallas have perhaps taken a gamble on hoping for instant success with their new-look backcourt line-up.
While Dallas are still a team in progress, Denver look the complete outfit and they seem almost invincible at home with 19 wins in their last 20 games.
The Nuggets have a five-game lead over closest challengers Memphis Grizzlies in the West and it would take a significant drop in form if they were to miss out on top seed – but they do have a few injury issues ahead of this game.
Guard Jamal Murray and forward Aaron Gordon, both regular starters when fit, are expected to sit this match out.
Murray is officially rated as doubtful but he has missed five games with right knee inflammation and Denver are unlikely to take any risks as the All-Star break is coming up, so they will probably take this opportunity to give him an extended period of rest to ensure he is fully fit for a postseason push.
Gordon is also rated as doubtful but he has sat out the last two games with a left rib issue, as well as dealing with a shoulder problem, so he is also unlikely to be called upon.
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Irving and Doncic have played two games together for the Mavs and both have ended in defeat, but there have been some encouraging signs regardless and the duo combined for 69 points in a three-point defeat to Minnesota Timberwolves earlier this week, having lost out in overtime to Sacramento Kings in their first game together.
Dallas may feel they have a chance to raid a shorthanded Nuggets in Denver but the hosts have still been winning games despite the absences of the second and third highest scorers in Murray and Gordon, with 5/8 MVP frontrunner Nikola Jokic continuing to carry his team.
Denver have a league-best 26-4 home record and have won their last two games without Murray and Gordon, so they should go into this game in confident mood and they are 20/21 to win with a -7 handicap in the Point Spread.
Dallas are on course to claim one of the top six seeds in the West as well and with Irving on their roster they will feel they have a genuine chance of challenging for the championship this season.
The Mavs are 16/1 to win the championship outright, while Denver can be backed at 15/2.