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3 things to watch for as the Mavericks face the Spurs

Dallas looks to even the regular season series against their in-state rivals.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off their most impressive victory of the season in a 97-81 romp of the Thunder, the Dallas Mavericks (5-15) square off with the San Antonio Spurs (12-7) and look to extend their winning streak to three games.

This is the second meeting between the in-state rivals with the Spurs taking the first game 97-91. The Mavericks are playing completely different basketball now, but the Spurs are getting reinforcements in Tony Parker who is expected to make his season debut. Parker ruptured his left quadriceps tendon during last season’s playoffs, and the team has taken it slow with the 35-year-old.

San Antonio is always a tough foe, so here is what to watch for tonight.

Can the Mavs slow down LaMarcus Aldridge?

Last time out, Aldridge lit up the Mavericks for 32 points on 12-of-21 shooting including 8-of-10 from the free-throw line. On the season, Aldridge averages 20 points and has only scored 30 or more points one other time. Aldridge had his way with the Dallas defense, and if the Mavs want any chance of stealing one in San Antonio, limiting Aldridge will be key.

Maxi Kleber will get the first crack at defending the five-time all star as part of the starting line-up, but once Kleber checks out, it will be a combination of Harrison Barnes, Salah Mejri and Dirk Nowitzki at times. Ideally, Barnes spends the majority of defensive possessions away from Aldridge, as guarding the big man takes a toll on Barnes’ offensive production. In the first meeting, he was just 5-of-16 from the field in 38 minutes.

Dallas’ defense

A big part of the Mavericks’ mini-revival is a resurgent defense. In the last four games, Dallas has a league-leading 92.6 defensive rating. They held the Thunder to 81 points, limited the Grizzlies to 94 points, and suffocated the Bucks who only scored 79 points. The Mavericks don’t have one lockdown defender. Matthews or Mejri might be the closest thing, but right now, it’s a team effort.

Battle of the boards

In this four-game stretch where Dallas has won three games, their defensive rebounding has been fantastic. In fact, they are leading the league in defensive rebounding percentage, usually limiting opponents to one shot per possession. It’s not glamorous like igniting the break with a steal or demoralizing an opponent with a ferocious blocked shot, but defensive rebounding is a key ingredient to winning basketball.

The Spurs are a good test to see if the Mavericks’ rebounding prowess is a flash in the pan or the start of a season turnaround. Led by Aldridge and Pau Gasol, the Spurs are top-five in the league in offensive rebounding percentage and offensive rebounds per game. It’ll be all hands on deck to keep San Antonio off the glass, and Dallas’ chances might depend on it.

How to watch

The game tips off at 7:30 p.m. Central and can be viewed locally on FSSW or on NBATV and NBA League Pass for those out of market.