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4 things to watch for as the Mavericks host the Blazers

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Clyde Drexler’s ghost deserves better.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Sacramento Kings Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The Good Guys:

The Dallas Mavericks: 26 and 15, sixth in the Western Conference.

The Bad Guys:

The Portland Trail Blazers: 18 and 24, tenth in the Western Conference.

Recent Activity:

Dallas, who has won three straight, is coming off of a 127-123 win against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday—the final score was close, but the win never truly felt in doubt.

Portland has won their last two—including a 117-107 Carmelo-Anthony-revenge-game win over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday

One Extremely Hot Take:

Maxi, Dwight (and Kristaps?) will hold Hassan Whiteside to single-digit rebounds.

Here are a few things to keep an eye on:

Seriously is Kristaps ever going to play?

At this point are we sure Kristaps Porzingis: Dallas Maverick even exists? Was he a collective hallucination? I’m nearly certain that I have memories of him hitting two absolute bombs in a huge Luka-less win over the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks, but honestly that could’ve been a dream.

I don’t want to put any evil out into the world by speculating on what Porzingis is dealing with, but it would be really neat if the team would do a little more to fill us in on what they know. Kristaps, on the other hand, has done a good job of being relatively open with his answers to questions about his status. Honestly, I guess we should all just hope for the best? No need to rush anything. Better safe than sorry. Et cetera.

How will Dallas perform on national TV?

If the Mavericks want to compete—really compete—in the playoffs this season, they need to show they can perform under pressure. To this point we’ve seen plenty of fourth quarters wherein they have decidedly NOT performed well under pressure. For some from-the-tip pressure, national TV games may be as close to as they’re going to get in the doldrums of the middle of the season. The Mavericks are 5 and 4 in nationally televised games (including games on NBA TV, the store brand national tv network) so far this season. *KNICKS LOSS KNICKS LOSS KNICKS LOSS*. Let’s see if the team can show up for all four quarters against Portland.

Trick-or-Treat Tim Hardaway Jr.

Tim Hardaway is a very important Maverick, maybe even (hot take incoming) THE MOST important Maverick. Dallas is 8 and 2 in games that Hardaway makes at least four three pointers. (12 and 3 in games where he shoots at least 40 percent.) The way Hardaway goes, so go the Dallas Mavericks. Let’s hope to see him hitting.

The Carmelo Stuff

For my last point I just want to touch on Carmelo Anthony. I’ve never been the biggest Melo fan, but my college roommate loves him, so I became fan-adjacent in my younger days. His one really good Knicks team was really enjoyable! Though Tyson Chandler and Jason Kidd may have colored my opinion on that team somewhat.

Melo’s struggles in OKC and Houston were strange and sad. Just a bummer to see a player fall off so immediately. His resurgence, if you want to call it that, in Portland has been fun. His counting stats—16.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.4 assists per game—are a far cry from his heyday, but he’s been productive on a team that isn’t terrible. He’s shooting nearly 40 percent from three, he’s playing nearly as many minutes per game as Luka, and his teammates seem to really enjoy him. ’m a sucker for a redemption story. I even kind of like Dwight Howard this year.

How to watch

The game tips at 8:30 p.m. Central and can be seen on the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network. Let Ryan Ruocco and Chauncey Billups lull you sleep, my babies.