Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle (L) yells at the referees during the fourth quarter on December 2, 2014 at the United Center in Chicago. File photo by Brian Kersey/UPI | License Photo
Rookies Luka Doncic and Trae Young will be linked, at least early, because of the draft-day trade in which they were swapped for each other.
If it means much, Young drew first blood in the rivalry when he scored 12 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter of Atlanta's 111-104 home victory on Oct. 24, when the Hawks overcame a 26-point deficit.
Dallas and Doncic will look to get even Wednesday, although Atlanta has history on its side, having won the last 10 in the series.
Since Young-Doncic I, the teams have gone opposite directions.
The Mavericks (14-11) have won 11 of their last 14 after a slippery start, including 10 straight at home. It is their longest home streak since winning 12 in a row in the 2007-08 season.
The Mavs' 12-2 record at American Airlines Center is tied with the Warriors for the best home mark in the Western Conference, and the Warriors have been among their conquests along the way, along with Oklahoma City and Boston.
Dallas will enter the Atlanta rematch after one of its most stifling victories of the season, a wire-to-wire 101-76 home win over Orlando in which the Magic shot 36 percent. The Mavs held Utah to 68 points and won by 50 on Nov. 14.
Guard/forward Doncic and point guard Young find themselves tethered at the top of the rookie leaderboard. Doncic is averaging 17.8 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists a game, leading rookies in scoring while ranking second in assists and third in rebounds. Young is fourth at 15.4 points a game and leads with 7.2 assists.
Doncic had career highs with 11 rebounds and nine assists while scoring seven points against the Magic.
"He's moving the ball better each game, which is really important," Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle told reporters.
"We know he can make spectacular plays. The key is to be able to do that while involving all of your teammates, so guys are constantly involved in the action. I thought that [Orlando game] was his best night doing that."
Another rookie is making strides in Dallas, point guard Jalen Brunson, who was taken with the third pick in the second round of the draft, No. 33 overall.
Brunson had a career-high 17 points against Orlando while making his second straight start in place of Dennis Smith Jr., who is recovering from a sprained right wrist and has been ruled out against Atlanta. Brunson also had three rebounds and four assists.
"He plays a very steady game, a very mature game for a guy who is a first-year player," Carlisle said of Brunson. "I really like how he fits with that group. He makes the plays that are there. He's a worker. He loves to play. He understands the game [and] is a student of the game."
Brunson, the point guard on Villanova's NCAA championship teams in 2016 and 2018, has scored in double figures in three straight games after reaching double figures just once in his first 19.
"He's more seasoned than you expect out of a guy in their first year," Mavericks guard Wesley Matthews told reporters. "He has stepped into the opportunity well."
Matthews made two 3-pointers against the Magic and has 569, tied for sixth in Mavericks' history.
Atlanta (6-20) has had three days' off since its most impressive victory of the season, a 106-98 home victory over Denver on Saturday. It was the Hawks' first victory over a team with a winning record, and it was the first time Denver had lost two in a row.
John Collins had a career-high 30 points to help the Hawks break a four-game losing streak while avenging a 45-point loss to the Nuggets.
Those kinds of victories have been hard to come by. After beating Dallas to go to 2-2, the Hawks were 3-18 until getting past Denver. The Hawks are 2-11 on the road, and only Phoenix (1-12) has fewer road wins.
Small forward DeAndre Bembry had a career-high 18 points with five assists and three blocks off the bench against Denver. He had a career-high 16 rebounds, 11 points and five assists in the first meeting with Dallas, when Harrison Barnes was out with an injury.
Kent Bazemore had 32 points against Dallas, and he applauded the energy Young showed in the fourth quarter.
"That was some grown-man stuff right there," Bazemore said.
Jeremy Lin and Omari Spellman did not play against Denver, and both have been ruled out Wednesday.