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3 things to watch for as the Mavericks face off with the Wizards

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Two of the five worst teams in the league look to stop the bleeding.

New York Knicks v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

It feels like an eternity since the Mavericks last played basketball. On Friday, the Mavericks had a pitiful showing at home against the New York Knicks in a game they lost 118-106. That marked six straight losses as the Mavs tumbled to a 2-7 record matching the previous two starts suffered by lottery-bound Maverick teams.

The Mavericks are in a tough spot right now, but facing the Washington Wizards might be just what the doctor ordered. The Wizards finally ended a five-game skid in which they allowed opponents to score an average of 127.4 points per game. The team they beat to end the slide? None other than the New York Knicks.

After the Wizards, the Mavericks’ five of the next six games are against the Utah Jazz (twice), Oklahoma City Thunder, Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies. If Dallas wants to even entertain the idea of making late surge in March, they have to win a game like this, but the outlook is bleak. The Mavericks are in danger of losing seven straight, something that never occurred in last season’s tankathon, and it might get worse before it gets any better.

Perimeter defense

There’s an alarming trend occurring in the early stages of the season. The Mavericks perimeter defense is atrocious both at the team level and individual level. As a team, Dallas is allowing opponents to shoot a league-high 45 percent from deep. Through nine games the Wizards are shooting 31 percent from three, so if Washington lights it up from deep, the Mavericks team defense will be further scrutinized.

Individually, Dallas is failing colossally to contain the opponents best perimeter scorer. A quick run through of past box scores paints a depressing picture. Devin Booker (35), Derrick Rose (28), Zach LaVine (34), Kent Bazemore (32) and DeMar DeRozan (34) all had tremendous success against the Mavericks meaning John Wall and Bradley Beal could have a field day. They are averaging 21 and 23 points respectively and will give the Mavericks all they can handle defensively.

Turnovers

One of the most troubling aspects of the Mavericks’ season is that they’ve been plagued with turnovers. They own the third-worst turnover percentage (16.2) and average the third-worst turnovers per game (16.8). It’s uncharacteristic of a Rick Carlisle coached team, but when considering the keys to the car are in the hands of a 19 and 20-year-old, turnovers are bound to happen.

On the other end, the Wizards have found success when opponents get careless with the basketball. They’re scoring 20 points per game off of turnovers (5th most in the league), and opposing teams are turning the ball over 16.6 percent of the time (3rd highest mark). Dallas taking care of the ball could go a long way in deciding the game.

More Dorian Finney-Smith

If there’s been a bright spot to the season (other than Luka Doncic, of course) it’s Dorian-Finney Smith. The undrafted rookie has struggled with injuries and consistency, but he might just be showing that’s he’s finally putting it all together. He’s playing efficient ball, shooting 53 percent from the field and 42 percent from three, and playing his usual disruptive defense while still putting forth the effort to crash the offensive glass.

Speaking postgame Friday, Carlisle skirted by questions surrounding lineup changes.

“We’re going to look at everything and we’ll see where we are,” Carlisle told the media after the game.

If the Mavericks were to shake things up, Finney-Smith should be the center of those changes. Even if things remain the same, the undrafted forward will look to improve upon a career-high 19 points. Finally healthy, he’s playing some of the best ball of his young career.

How to watch

The game tips at 7:30 p.m. CT and can be watched on Fox Sports Southwest or NBATV.