|Pistons, Mavs tip off NBA's visit to Mexico|
Two teams venture south of the border expecting to have an enjoyable experience, but only one will return a winner when the Dallas Mavericks and Detroit Pistons square off in Mexico City on Thursday night.
The Mavericks have had three days off since their last game while the Pistons have enjoyed two, allowing both teams to turn their attention to the site of the game rather than the NBA standings as the league prepares for its 12th-ever regular-season game in the Mexican capital.
The San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns will make it 13 when they clash Saturday night at Mexico City Arena.
"I think it's great that we do this," Mavericks guard J.J. Barea, one of his club's Spanish-speaking players, said earlier this week. "I've been there a bunch of times with the Puerto Rico national team and with the NBA, and every time we go, it's a great time.
"The people are great. The fans love basketball, love the NBA. So I think it's important we go down there and do a good job."
The Mavericks were doing great north of the border until seeing a five-game winning streak come to an end with a home loss to the Sacramento Kings on Sunday.
Dallas and the Houston Rockets were the first NBA teams to play a regular-season game in Mexico City in December 1997. The Mavericks lost that game to their Southwest Division rival.
The Mavericks returned to pick up a win over Phoenix in January 2017.
The Pistons, meanwhile, have never played a regular-season game in Mexico, but they did travel to London to face the New York Knicks and take a 102-87 loss in January 2013.
Despite being at a geographical disadvantage, Detroit has been designated as the home team in the international affair.
Make no mistake, Detroit vice chairman Arn Tellem boasted this week, the Pistons are proud to be invited.
"It's a great association with us and our neighboring country, and to me, a feel-good opportunity for the Pistons, using sports to bring two countries together -- especially in the times we're living in -- it's more important than ever," he said. "It's a very important market where they love basketball."
Mexican basketball fans will get an opportunity to see two of the NBA's marquee talents.
Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, who speaks fluent Spanish after having spent time playing for Real Madrid, rates as an early candidate for NBA Most Valuable Player after having scored 20 or more points in each of his past 19 games. He ranks among the league leaders with averages of 30 points and 9.2 assists per game.
Pistons forward Blake Griffin, meanwhile, is averaging 18.2 points in 12 games since returning from season-opening hamstring and knee issues.
Griffin was held to five points in Detroit's most recent outing, but Derrick Rose produced a 105-103 win at New Orleans with a buzzer-beating 14-footer that capped a 21-point night.
The meeting will be the first of the season between the Mavericks and Pistons. Their past three matchups -- all won by the home team -- have been decided by a total of 16 points, one game in overtime.
--Field Level Media