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3 things to watch as the Mavericks face the Thunder

The Mavs look to end 2017 on a high note taking on a gelling Thunder team.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks (12-25) are playing good basketball. After knocking off the Raptors, Pacers and Pelicans, an even larger test looms with the Oklahoma City Thunder (20-16).

The Thunder were winners of six straight before an egregious blown call by the referees allowed the Bucks to top them on Friday night. After a slow start to the season, it’s possible the Thunder are finally figuring out how to mesh all of the new pieces.

The Mavs and Thunder have already played twice with each team taking one on their home floor. Here’s what to watch for on New Year’s Eve.

Can the Mavs slow down Russell Westbrook?

In the Thunder’s last five games, Westbrook is averaging 32 points, nine rebounds and 12 assists, but maybe the more eye-opening stat is he’s shooting 51 percent from the field. Westbrook is not known for his efficiency, so shooting north of 50 percent is remarkable.

If Westbrook is going to shoot anywhere close to that, a Dallas victory will likely take another record-setting performance from the Mavs, like in Friday’s game against the Pelicans. Even with the additions of Paul George (who is out tonight) and Carmelo Anthony, the Thunder still live and die by Westbrook. If Dallas can somehow throw Westbrook into a funk, the Mavs will have a good shot at making it four in a row.

Keep the Thunder off the glass

The Thunder are one of the top offensive rebounding teams in the entire NBA. They average 12.1 offensive rebounds per game and grab 27.5 percent of available offensive rebounds. Both stats are number one in the league. The biggest reason the Thunder excel on the offensive glass is Steven Adams. He leads the league, snatching five offensive boards per night and constantly gives his team extra opportunities to score.

Fortunately for Dallas, they only give up 20.1 percent of available offensive rebounds to their opponents (fourth fewest) and only allow 8.3 offensive boards per game (fourth fewest). Whichever team can control the glass will have a big leg up in determining the outcome of this game.

Will the Mavs continue to push?

In this three-game win streak the Mavericks are scoring 19.7 fast break points per game, second in the NBA to only the Golden State Warriors. It’s an unusual development considering the Mavs only average about nine fast break points on the season. Their pace is only slightly faster, but the Mavs are also scoring eight more points per game in this win streak than what they average on the season. It could be something, or it could be nothing. Either way, let’s see if the Mavs try to push it with the Thunder in Oklahoma City.

How to watch

Tonight’s game tips off at 6:00pm Central and can be seen on Fox Sports Southwest locally or on NBA League Pass outside the Dallas area.