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3 things to watch for as the struggling Mavericks take on the Clippers

Currently sitting dead last in the Western Conference, Dallas will try to turn things around against a very talented Clippers squad.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Los Angeles Clippers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks really have had some nice moments early on this season, one of them being the first half they they put together against the Utah Jazz the other night in Salt Lake City when they led 53-44 at the break. When the guys play like that, you start to think that maybe they've turned a corner. Shots are falling, guys are scrambling on defense and taking care of the ball. However, Dallas was outscored by 24 points in the second half of that game and fell to a 1-7 record on the season. For whatever reasons, the Mavs just can't seem to put together a full 48 minutes of good basketball without imploding.

Things don’t get any easier tonight (or ever, really) as the Mavs take on Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and the Los Angeles Clippers (4-2) at Staples Center. If Dallas has any hopes turning this season around, they’re going to have to pull off a couple of upsets along the way to get there, and that’s what we’ll be hoping for tonight.

Here are 3 things to watch for tonight.

Mavs must take care of the ball

In the last 2 losses to the Jazz and the 76ers, the Mavs committed 40 turnovers. That is devastatingly bad, especially for a team that currently ranks 2nd for lowest turnovers per game this season. Yes, this team is sitting at the bottom of the league right now, but there have been a lot really close losses (Hawks, Kings, Grizzlies, 76ers). For a team that many people, including myself, believe must overachieve to potentially have a shot at a playoff spot this season, every turnover can be crucial.

After 2 straight games of being sloppy with the ball, we’ll see if the Mavs can play with a greater attention to detail against the Clippers

Dennis Smith Jr. may be in for another rough game

Against the Jazz, Smith Jr. only scored 2 points (1-of-7 FG), 3 rebounds, 1 assist and had 4 turnovers in 17 minutes of play. He also learned a hard lesson on multiple occasions about what happens when you try to drive on Rudy Gobert (he is called the “Stifle Tower” for a reason). Smith Jr. has the potential to be a star in this league, but when you get caught up in the hype, it’s sometimes hard to remember that he’s still just a kid.

In the Las Vegas Summer League, Smith Jr. showed us that he can bounce back from a subpar performance. However, if he wants to do that tonight, it’ll have to be against one of the best defensive point guards in the NBA, Patrick Beverley. Whether he has a tough scoring night or not, I’ll be looking to see how Smith Jr. responds to the physicality of Beverley. Hopefully, it’ll light his competitive fire and propel him to a solid performance. All that being said though, don’t be surprised or bummed out if Smith Jr. has another long night. The more he plays, the more comfortable he’ll become. When he reaches that certain level of being comfortable running the show, all bets are off.

Hopefully Dirk has found his touch again

So far this season, Dirk Nowitzki has, more times than not, looked like a 39-year-old that has lost a step or two. I’ve always said that the way Dirk plays the game, he could play until he’s 50 years old if he wanted to. His start to this season had me second guessing that idea, but perhaps it just took the Big German 8 games to knock some of the offseason rust off.

Against the Jazz, Dirk scored a season high 18 points (7-of-11 FG, 4-of-5 3P) and grabbed 5 rebounds in 25 minutes of play. That’s the kind of efficiency that could really help this team out going forward if he can keep it up. After nailing 4 out of 5 three pointers in Utah, Dirk is now sitting at an impressive 44.8% from deep on the year. We’ll see if he can keep it up against the Clippers. He may not score 18 points a night anymore, but if he can just be efficient with whatever number of looks he gets, the Mavs will start to win some games.

How to watch

The Mavs and Clippers will tip-off at 9:30 p.m. CT. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN. You will also be able to watch the game locally on FSSW.