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3 things to watch as the Mavericks host the Rockets

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Just one night after taking on the worst team in the league, the Dallas Mavericks must face the NBA’s best. Tonight the Mavericks (21-45) wrap up their regular season series against the Houston Rockets (51-14), a series Houston leads 3-0.

Unlike Memphis, whose league-leading 17-game losing streak continues after last night’s loss to Dallas, the Rockets’ 17-game winning streak ended Friday night with a loss to the Raptors. They’ll be looking to start fresh against the Mavericks tonight, and with Dallas officially eliminated for the playoffs and solely concerned with draft lottery positioning, that could be a win-win scenario.

Here are three things to watch for in tonight’s I-45 matchup.

Three-point battle

There aren’t many parallels between the Rockets and the Mavericks this season, but the two teams have deployed a nearly identical offensive strategy: lob a ton of three-point shots up and hope they stick (though, of course, Houston has a much deeper bag of tricks at the moment than Dallas). Obviously the execution is just a bit more consistent for the Rockets, but it means that you can never quite count the Mavericks out of one of their match-ups, even if the odds are in Houston’s favor.

Houston is known for their three-point shooting because they lead the league in three-point attempts per game; Dallas follows at No. 5. But neither team cracks the top-ten in percentage made, with Houston coming in at No. 11 and Dallas following immediately behind in the twelfth spot. The teams are also both very much in the middle of the pack when it comes to opponent three-point shooting.

But about that defense...

Unfortunately for the Mavericks (or fortunately, depending on whether you’re on team tank), the other end of the floor tells a different story. A classic Mike D’Antoni-led team, Houston has always had a strong offense. But since their streak began, they’ve not only led the league in offensive rating, they’ve maintained the fifth-best defensive rating in the NBA. It’s what’s propelled them past the Celtics, Raptors and Warriors over the last few weeks and what makes it so likely that both teams get their desired outcome tonight.

Will the score be 104-97?

It’s mid-March. This team is bad. We don’t have a lot left to say. But these two teams managed the unlikely feat of ending their last two games with the exact same score: 104-97. Can they do it again? Would a coordinated effort to do so technically count as tanking by the Mavericks? Is anyone still reading? I think the Warriors, Timberwolves, and Raptors are all playing this afternoon, maybe try to catch one of those games?

How to watch

Tonight’s game tips off at 7:00pm Central on Fox Sports Southwest. Outside of the Dallas area, you can catch the game on League Pass.