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3 things to watch for when the Mavericks visit the Thunder

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It’s the second game of a home-and-home as Dallas looks to beat the Thunder again.

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

Coming off an exciting win in the final minutes last night, the Dallas Mavericks (17-18) and the Oklahoma City Thunder (22-13) dust themselves off and go right back at it, this time in Oklahoma City, for a second night in a row.

The Thunder don’t go down easily, so the West’s second best team by way of record will be licking their chops at the opportunity for vengeance against the Mavericks, who have been horrible on the road this year.

Battle of the boards

It’s no secret why the Thunder are one of the best rebounding teams in the NBA. On the season Oklahoma City grabs 48.7 total (second best in the league) and 13 offensive rebounds (most in the league) per game. At 10 boards per game, Steven Adams narrowly comes in as the second best rebounder on his own team while Russell Westbrook leads the bunch with a career-best 10.8 rebounds per game. And even Paul George is pulling down a career-high 8.4 rebounds per night.

Where the Thunder take advantage of their rebounding prowess is capitalizing on the extra possessions. The Mavericks’ northern neighbors score 15.1 second chance points which is the fourth most in the Association. DeAndre Jordan will pull down his fair share of rebounds, but the Mavericks as a team will have to put bodies on the Thunder when shots go up and mitigate one of the strengths of the Thunder.

Dennis Smith Jr.’s response

When Smith made his return to the court against the New Orleans Pelicans Friday night he was presumably looking to put questions about his health and place on the team to rest. And for about 25 minutes he did just that. He shot the ball well, played tenacious defense and looked like he hadn’t missed any time at all after missing 10 of the past 11 games. But Smith made a few mental mistakes late in the game that helped the Pelicans bury the Mavericks.

Smith looked even better against the Thunder last night, clearly getting a bit more into his groove, playing some great defense against Russell Westbrook late, and came up with what was ultimately the game-winning shot.

Smith isn’t one to back down from a challenge. The second-year guard has struggled with consistency early in his career, so once again it’s imperative he builds off quality games.

The Thunder defense

The Thunder have become known for their defense this season. They boast the NBA’s second best defensive rating at 102.1, generate the most steals per night at 10.4 swipes and force opponents to shoot only 45 percent from the floor. While Paul George might be the Thunder’s most talented individual defender, he’s flanked with elite length in Westbrook, Jerami Grant and Terrance Ferguson, while Adams anchors the paint and imposes his will every night.

Last night, the Thunder’s defense wasn’t quite up to what it’s been this season, but they probably won’t flounder two games in a row. The Mavericks will have to take care of the ball and execute to generate quality looks to give them a chance.

How to watch

The game tips off at 7 PM CST and can be watched on Fox Sports Southwest or NBA League Pass.