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Basketball

What I’m Watching: a Mavs Measuring-Stick Game

Plus: SMU on the road against a ranked team, and the Cowboys' run defense gets a shot at redemption.
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A win over Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets would go a long way toward cementing Dallas as a team to fear in the West. Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Horned Frogs booked their spot in the Big XII title game with a win over Texas in Austin while the Rangers kept a low profile in the first week of free agency aside from a shrewd small move to acquire veteran starter Jake Odorizzi plus cash for Kolby Allard. As for the “Cowboys defense versus Aaron Rodgers’ downfall” item, I’ll refer you to The Checklist for the full breakdown of how Dallas, well, broke down against its archnemesis.

Here’s what I’m watching this week:

Thursday, 11/18—SMU at Tulane6:30 p.m., ESPN

The Mustangs clinched bowl eligibility on Saturday with an 18-point road win over South Florida. Can they claw back into the AAC race, too? It’s a long shot; the Mustangs are 4-2 in conference, behind three teams at 5-1. But the No. 21 Green Wave are one of them, so a win in New Orleans could give SMU late life if they get some help.

Friday, 11/19—Mavericks versus Nuggets7:30 p.m., Bally Sports Southwest

The Mavs are coming off a bizarre week, dropping road games against Eastern Conference bottom-feeder Orlando and middle-of-the-pack Washington before defeating the best team in the West, Portland, at home in the American Airlines Center.

The NBA season is still young, mind you: Dallas is better than its 7-5 record while Portland is likely worse than its 9-4 mark. But that doesn’t tell us how good the Mavs actually are, which should make this home tilt against Denver, one of the NBA’s best both in record and in talent, very telling.

One thing we can say for certain: they need more offense beyond Luka Doncic and Spencer Dinwiddie. Iztok Franko will be writing about that this week.

Sunday, 11/21—The Cowboys’ run defense versus Dalvin Cook3:25 p.m., CBS

Once the fulcrum of Minnesota’s offense, the 27-year-old Cook now occupies a more peripheral role than he did even a season ago. Some of that owes itself to Justin Jefferson emerging as the game’s best receiver at age 23. Cook’s own decline plays a part, too: he’s lost just enough to no longer rank among the game’s most feared runners.

But the Florida State product is still in the tail end of his prime, and his more judicious use comes with 5.0 yards-per-carry average, which is more than enough to dice up the Cowboys’ front seven if it doesn’t raise its game after the Green Bay debacle. Will Cook fail where Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon succeeded? The answer will determine whether Dallas hands the 8-1 Vikings their second loss of the season.

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Mike Piellucci

Mike Piellucci

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Mike Piellucci is D Magazine's sports editor. He is a former staffer at The Athletic and VICE, and his freelance…

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