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3 things to watch for as the Mavericks take on the Suns

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Dallas hosts Phoenix for the first time in a battle of the Western Conference’s two worst teams.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks (18-22) are coming off one of their worst losses on the season and look to end a three-game losing streak against the Phoenix Suns (9-32), who the Mavericks have lost to three times this season.

In the first matchup, Devin Booker took over the fourth quarter on his way to 35 points and connected on six of his ten three pointers. In the second tilt, T.J. Warren posted a season-high 30 points while the Mavericks shot a crisp 15 percent from three making five of 33 attempts.

The moneyball

The Mavericks are truly living and dying by the three this season. When the shot is falling, Dallas can play with anyone, but when the well runs dry and they allow their opponent quality looks from deep, the Mavericks have shown the inability to overcome those hurdles. Against Dallas this season the Suns have shot flames from behind the arc connecting on 48 percent of their attempts. Meanwhile, the Mavericks have thrown bricks, shooting a putrid 23 percent from deep in two games against the Suns. Trevor Ariza has been the biggest thorn in the Mavericks side hitting 8-of-15 threes combined in both games, but thankfully for Dallas, Ariza is no longer a Sun.

Lineups

When the losses pile up, the criticism flows and in the last few games, Rick Carlisle’s rotations have brought on a lot of questions. Most recently, Carlisle elected to play one of his best defenders, Maxi Kleber, only five minutes against the Los Angeles Lakers Monday night. Prior to that game, Kleber played 22 minutes against the Philadelphia 76ers but played zero minutes against the Boston Celtics.

Whatever the Mavericks are doing now is not working. The starting lineup is a mess, and the bench unit is still trying to integrate a 40 year old coming back from ankle surgery. In times like this, when the team looks stuck, it’s hard not to look back at previous teams and marvel at how Carlisle tinkered with lineups to get the absolute most out of his players. That isn’t happening now, and it’s puzzling. Dallas is 3-11 in their last 14 games but is only 2.5 games back from the eighth seed. If the Mavericks are going to make a push, it has to happen now.

Third quarter

Speaking of making adjustments, whatever the Mavericks are doing at the half, they should stop and do the opposite. In the last three games, Dallas has been outscored by 37 combined points and have failed to score more than 20 points in the third quarter. Against the Lakers Monday, Luka Doncic scored seven third quarter points, and the rest of the Mavericks combined for six. On the season Dallas ranks 26th in the league scoring 25 third quarter points, so this will something to monitor as the Mavericks look to secure a victory against the Suns.

How to watch

The game tips at 7:30 CST and can be watched on Fox Sports Southwest or NBA League Pass.