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3 things to watch when the Mavericks meet the Pacers

The Mavericks head back to Dallas to face the Indiana Pacers for the final time this season.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Indiana Pacers Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight, the Dallas Mavericks (18-42) host the Indiana Pacers (34-25), in their first home game since the All-Star break. It will be the second meeting of the season for the two teams; they first met back on December 27 in Indiana, a game the Mavericks won 98-94.

The Mavericks, who are 14th in the Western Conference standings, and Pacers, fourth in the Eastern Conference, have had polar opposite trajectories since last they met. The Pacers have gone a solid 15-9 since the battle just before New Year’s, while the Mavericks have gone a sad 7-17. They are currently on a four game skid.

With only 22 games left in this rocky season, Rick Carlisle and the Mavericks will use the next seven weeks to see what is working for their roster, and what needs more attention (hint: nearly all of it!). Here’s what to watch for in tonight’s game.

Dipo Dominance

Newly minted NBA All-Star Victor Oladipo is having a career year. The 25-year-old shooting guard, in his fifth season and on his third team, has found a home back in the state of Indiana where he also played in college. It’s always exciting when a young player with potential finally gets something to click, especially after being shuffled from team to team. And this time around they aren’t just empty stats. Averaging 24 points, 5.5 rebounds and four assists with a PER of 23.7 (all career bests), Dipo is leading this young team through a very solid season, planting them firmly in the Eastern conference playoff hunt.

Oladipo did not play in the first matchup with the Mavericks (Lance Stephenson got the start). But while he hasn’t faced the Mavs since joining the Pacers, his splits against Dallas aren’t great. He’s averaging 13.6 points, six rebounds, three assists, shooting 37.5 percent from the field, and 27 percent from three in seven games. It’ll be interesting to see how he looks now with fresh confidence from having unlocked a new level of his game.

The turnover battle

This game features two teams who take care of the basketball. The Mavericks continue to lead the league with fewest turnovers per game (12.4). The Pacers aren’t too far behind, fifth in the league, at just over 13 per game.

The difference here is that Dallas doesn’t force their opponents into many turnovers, while Indiana comes in at sixth in opponents’ turnovers per game (15 per). If one of these teams can force the other in to a mistake-riddled game, expect them to capitalize.

A shooting rollercoaster

There are few teams who take as many threes as the Mavericks (Houston, Brooklyn and Cleveland, barely). And while the Mavs only shoot about league average from deep (36 percent), it’s the three-point shot that has kept them competitive in many games this season.

In their two games since the All-Star break we’ve seen very different shooting performances from the team. Last Friday night, in their game against the Lakers, the Mavs were scorching from deep, hitting 19 threes and shooting 45 percent from the perimeter. Against Utah on Saturday it was the exact opposite: they hit only 10 threes and were an ice-cold 28 percent.

This kind of up-and-down shooting performance is to be expected when you play younger players, add new pieces to the back end of the roster, and rely so heavily on one aspect of the game. Indiana plays pretty stingy perimeter defensive, with the fourth best opponent three-point shooting percentage. The Mavericks will have to work to get themselves going.

How to watch

Tip off is set for 7:30 pm Central and can be watched on FSSW or NBA LeaguePass.