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3 things to watch as the Mavericks tussle with the Pistons in Detroit

With only three games left in the season, the Mavs travel to Detroit to take on the Pistons in yet another game that means little for both teams.

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Another day, another game for the Dallas Mavericks against a fellow non-playoff team — tonight it will be the Detroit Pistons. After making a splashy trade for Blake Griffin at the trade deadline this season, the Pistons figured to make a playoff push. Unfortunately for Detroit, things have trended in the wrong direction, and the Pistons will be on the outside looking in when the playoffs start in a few weeks. Although the Pistons will miss the playoffs, this should not be the same kind of “tank-off” game we witnessed a few nights ago when the Mavs lost to the Orlando Magic. The Pistons are still the much better team, even if Blake Griffin is ruled out because of an ankle injury. This shorthanded Mavs team will have their hands full tonight.

Here’s three things to watch for tonight.

More minutes for Motley

Against the Magic, Johnathan Motley logged a heavy 41-minute load for a rookie center that’s on a two-way contract. In his time on the floor, Motley posted a career-high in both points (14) and rebounds (8). It’s still early, but Motley definitely has some potential to stick around in Dallas as a key rotation piece going forward. Even though it was against a shorthanded Magic team with not much to play for, Motley really impressed me with plays like this one.

If you go by the eye test and not the level of competition he’s had to face, you’ll notice that everything Motley does on the court seems to come so naturally. He’s very comfortable posting up down low or setting screen and rolling to the basket. I don’t know how much of an impact Motley will have when the Mavs get back to playing winning basketball, but I definitely like what I’ve seen so far.

This game should be a lot closer than the first time around

In their first matchup this season, the Mavs blew out the Pistons at home by the final score of 110-93. Things should be different this time around for a variety of reasons. For starters, back when these teams met on December 20th, the Mavs had more of a reason to put their best foot forward, being that the playoffs were still a possibility at that point. Secondly, the Mavs will be without Dirk Nowitzki, J.J. Barea and Wesley Matthews — three players that combined to score 33 points, 9 assists and 9 rebounds. Oh yeah, that group had a combined plus/minus rating of plus-38 in that game. So if you're looking for another Mavs’ blowout tonight (I’m pretty sure you were not), prepare to be disappointed.

The odds are starting to look favorable for the Mavs

With only three games left in the season, it’s looking more and more likely that the Mavs will secure a top-5 spot in the NBA Draft Lottery odds, which commences in a little over a month from now on May 15th. Technically, the Mavs could still end up with odds as high as 7th, but that would probably mean the Mavs went on a two or three game win streak to end the season. Regardless of where the Mavs’ odds end up when the season end, we know one thing for sure right now — the Mavs will, at the very least, have better odds to win the lottery than they did last year. Buckle up, people. Things could get crazy here in the final week of the season.

How to watch

The Mavs and Pistons will tipoff at 6:00 p.m. central time. You can watch the game on FSSW and NBA League Pass.