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Three things to watch for as the Mavericks host the Wizards

Dallas looks to stop a three-game skid heading into a week-long home stand.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Washington Wizards Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks (15-31) get set to face the Washington Wizards (26-20) for the second time this season. The Mavs are currently riding a three-game losing streak, while the Wizards are jockeying for home court in the first round of the playoffs.

Dallas took the first meeting back in November, 113-99. Harrison Barnes scored 31 points and grabbed nine rebounds, and Dennis Smith Jr. flashed star potential scoring 22 points to go along with eight rebounds and eight assists.

The Mavericks are coming off their 14th consecutive “clutch” game this season, so expect nothing less than a game that comes down to the wire. Here’s what to watch for Monday night.

Can the Mavericks slow the Wizards’ backcourt?

In Saturday’s loss, the Trail Blazers’ backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum lit up the Mavericks for a combined 57 points on 22-of-38 shooting. Lillard canned seven of his nine three-point attempts in a dazzling shooting display. The schedule isn’t giving the Mavs a break as they must now try to slow down the dynamic backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal.

In the last matchup, both Wall and Beal scored 23 points, while Wall dished 14 assists and attempted 18 free throws. Beal can get hot in an instant, and Wall can take over games with his command of the floor. The Mavericks’ stable of guards will have their work cut out for them as they try to slow the all-star quality guards.

Dennis Smith Jr. is hitting his stride

There were some ups and downs the first few months of the season with Smith Jr., but that’s expected for a rookie point guard in the NBA. But as of late, the 20-year-old rookie is starting to take off. In his last 10 games, Smith Jr. is averaging 18 points, six assists and four rebounds, while shooting 45 percent from the field and 40 percent from deep.

In those games he’s also showing some fourth quarter moxie. In the final 12 minutes he’s scoring six points, while upping his shooting percentage to 60 percent from the field. He’s also scored 20-plus points in three straight games. Smith Jr. went blow-for-blow with Wall last time out as the Mavs stole one on the road. Dallas will need much of the same from their blossoming point guard as they try to defend home court.

Can the Mavericks close one out?

This Mavericks team just doesn’t quit. When it seemed the Trail Blazers were going to blow the doors off the Mavericks, they somehow made the game close and competitive in the fourth quarter in another clutch game. In fact, December 20 was the last time the Mavs didn’t play in a close game.

Unfortunately, the Mavericks’ record is not good in such games. Rick Carlisle has been opting to go with the younger players late in games, and they need to learn how to win games in the final minutes. Tonight might be another opportunity to win in the clutch. But since I’m writing about it, it will almost certainly be a blowout.

How to watch

Tip off is at 7:30 pm Central and can be seen on FSSW or NBA League Pass.