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3 things to watch for as the Mavs host the Hornets

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The Mavericks look to end a four-game losing streak against Kemba Walker and Co.

NBA: Preseason-Dallas Mavericks at Charlotte Hornets Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks (22-50) face off against the Charlotte Hornets (32-41) for the final time this season in some Saturday night hoops. Dallas is coming off a 119-112 loss to the Utah Jazz Thursday night, while Charlotte is fresh off a complete beatdown of the lowly Memphis Grizzlies 140-79.

The two clubs last played against each other in January. The Mavs were able to take one on the road thanks to Harrison Barnes dominant fourth quarter, 115-111. Kemba Walker lit Dallas up for 41 points, but Barnes 13 fourth quarter points kept the Mavs on top.

Here’s what to watch for in game 73 of the season.

Dennis Smith Jr.’s return

Smith Jr. has sat out the last two games since suffering an ankle injury against the Brooklyn Nets on March 17. He was playing okay basketball before the tweak and it’s important for the rookie to finish the year strong. Smith Jr. is likely champing at the bit to get back out there, and there will be a few things to watch for when he’s inserted back into the lineup. For starters, can he put together another efficient shooting night. In Brooklyn he had 21 points shooting 53 percent from the field and 40 percent from deep. Second, can he help slow down Walker. Fresh off a 46 point explosion, Walker is getting into his March Madness groove. Smith Jr. will have his hands full after his two-day layoff.

Harrison Barnes’ strong play

Since the end of February, Barnes has quietly been playing pretty well. He’s averaging 22 points on 45 percent shooting from the field and 44 percent shooting from deep. He’s also grabbing five rebounds, nearly 3 assists per game and earning six trips to the free throw line. Barnes’ three-point percentage is buoyed by a 5-for-6 shooting night from deep against the Jazz, but it would be encouraging to see him build off that since he’s sacrificed his legs in the post defensively for almost five months.

Dwight Howard

Before Walker’s scoring outburst against the Grizzlies, Howard took the liberty of abusing the Nets Wednesday night to the tune of 32 points and 30 rebounds. He is the eighth player in NBA history to notch a 30/30 game, and the most recent player to do it since Kevin Love’s 30/30 game in 2010. Howard is having one of his better seasons in the past few years and is clearly still capable of dominating a game. He put up 15 points and 12 rebounds against the Mavs last time out but struggled mightily from the free throw line going 5-for-18. If Howard begins to have his way, expect the Hack-A-Dwight strategy to be utilized.

How to watch

Tip off is at 7:30 CST and can be watched locally on FSSW and out of market on NBA League Pass.