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3 things to watch for when the Mavericks face the Spurs

The Mavericks return after a few days off to face the San Antonio Spurs at home.

San Antonio Spurs v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

The Dallas Mavericks (19-10) had a few holi-days off after coughing an enormous lead on the road against the defending champs Sunday, and they’ll look to bounce back at home against the San Antonio Spurs (12-17).

This is their second meeting with the Spurs, after beating them in Dallas 117-110 in the middle of November. The Mavericks have been hit-or-miss at the American Airlines Center this season, an average 8-7 record. They get one shot to right the ship at home before another three game road trip to close out to December. And here is what we’ll be watching for:

Looking for Luka

The Mavericks have been without their superstar Luka Doncic for essentially their last five games, after he sprained his ankle in the early moments of their game against the Miami Heat. Reports from the beginning made it sound like Doncic could be out at least two weeks, which would have him back on the floor on the 28th of December against the Golden State Warriors.

There has been plenty of video of Luka sprinting, taking jumpers, and recent announcement that he was back at practice. Rick Carlisle acknowledged Doncic was improving, and said his status for tonight’s game would be upgraded. As of this writing the early-MVP candidate is listed as ‘Questionable’. It’s possible Doncic sees some minutes in tonight’s game. It’s also possible the Mavericks want to exercise extreme caution, and feel like they can grab a win without him, giving him extra time to heal.

If Doncic does return, this could be an opportunity for him to have his way once again against the Spurs. In their first meeting he posted a jaw dropping 42 points, 11 rebounds, and 12 assists.

Shaking off Sunday

In another chapter of this ever-surprising version of the Mavericks, Sunday represented everything this season has to offer. The early start meant early rust, where the Mavericks simply couldn’t make a shot against the Raptors. Then suddenly they looked like title contenders once again, on the road, without Doncic. And just as quickly, the Mavericks opted to coast and a 30-point lead vanished.

Having time off since that loss could be beneficial. It gave everyone a chance to clear their head and reset. It also left time to stew on such a perplexing choke job. The only comparable loss this season, in terms of frustration, was in New York against the Knicks. The Mavericks responded after by winning 11 of their next 13. They need a similar response tonight.

Two ways to play

The Mavericks and the Spurs have a storied history, especially over the last 20 years. And now both teams are entering new eras around the same time. And with that, completely different philosophies and styles from two hall of fame coaches in Gregg Popovich and Rick Carlisle.

The Mavericks are second in the league this season in three-point attempts, averaging 41 per game. The Spurs come in at dead last, attempting just 26. A difference in 15 attempted threes every game is a pretty wide gap — especially as both teams are hitting 36-percent from deep.

In their November meeting the Spurs hit 33-percent of their 24 attempts. The Mavericks? 42-percent of their 41 attempts. That’s the game right there. If the story holds up tonight, the Mavericks can use their nonstop, never-quit three point shooting to their advantage against a team set on shooting twos.

How to Watch

Tip-off is set for 7:00 CT, and will be televised on TNT.