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3 things to watch for as the Mavericks battle the Nuggets

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The Mavs and Nuggets face off for the fourth and final time as the two teams head in different directions.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a Monday night loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, the Dallas Mavericks (19-45) are looking to right the ship tonight against the Denver Nuggets (35-28).

Denver has taken two of the three contests, so Dallas is looking to even the season series in the last matchup between the Western conference foes. In the most recent matchup, the Nuggets erased a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter to win 91-89. Nikola Jokic posted a triple double while the Mavs were led by Harrison Barnes’ 22 points and six rebounds.

The Nuggets are holding onto the eighth seed by half a game but are only two games back from the third seed in a wild playoff race. The Mavericks, on the other hand, are doing everything they can to prove to you they aren’t tanking.

Here’s what to watch for tonight as the two teams face off.

Devin Harris returns

It’s been a while since a visiting team’s player has received a roaring ovation in the American Airlines Center, but Devin Harris will receive just that when he checks in for the first time in tonight’s game. The Mavs traded Harris on February 8 in a three-team swap that landed the Mavericks Doug McDermott. Even though McDermott has proven to be an excellent acquisition by the front office, it’s obvious Harris has been missed. He embodied everything the team expected from its players and was having a fantastic year.

Harris is posting eight points and two assists in 17 minutes per game since being traded. Those numbers aren’t eye popping, but his veteran savvy among a young Nuggets backcourt can’t be quantified in the box score.

Hopefully Harris is ready to feel the love. He deserves it.

The Nuggets front court

In two games against the Mavericks this season, Nikola Jokic is averaging a jaw-dropping 20 points, 17 rebounds and nine assists in 36 minutes per game. The 23-year-old, former 41st overall pick in the 2014 draft has a unique skill set, and the Mavs have had no answer for him so far this season.

Unfortunately for the Mavs, the Nuggets are bolstering their front court with the return of another do-it-all big man in Paul Millsap. Millsap was Denver’s big free-agent signing but missed about three months of the season with a left wrist injury. Averaging 26 minutes per night, 12 points, seven rebounds and two assists since his return, the Mavs should expect a big dose of the four-time all-star.

Three-point shootout

It’s no secret the Mavs like to launch from deep as they’ve chucked the fifth-most threes per game this season with 33 attempts. However, the Nuggets aren’t far behind with 30 three-point attempts per game. With the Mavs and Nuggets shooting threes at a 36 and 37 percent clip respectively, one of the keys for both teams will be slowing down the perimeter barrage. The Nuggets just rained 19 three pointers on the Cavaliers Sunday, so the Mavericks will have to make a concerted effort to chase shooters off the three-point line.

How to watch

The game tips off at 7:30 CST and can be watched locally on FSSW or NBA League Pass for out-of-market viewers.