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3 things to watch for when the Mavericks face the Trail Blazers

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Dallas looks to bounce back in Portland and gain ground in the Western Conference.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Playing the Portland Trail Blazers (19-26) for the second time in three games, the Dallas Mavericks (27-16) are looking to pick up the pieces from Tuesday’s game where they fell to a conference foe and lost culture-setter Dwight Powell to a season-ending injury.

The Trail Blazers and Mavericks have split the season series thus far with Dallas picking up the most recent victory last week. In that matchup Luka Doncic and Damian Lillard dueled and scored 35 and 34 points respectively, but the Mavericks were able to sink 20 triples and won 120-112.

As of this writing, C.J. McCollum is questionable with an ankle injury, and the Mavericks will be without Powell.

Here’s what to watch for Thursday night:

Mavericks’ rotations

With Dwight Powell on the shelf, the Mavericks are essentially back to square one with deciding a starting lineup. It’s unfortunate because Rick Carlisle finally found what worked, only to have Kristaps Porzingis miss 10 games. Then, once Porzingis was healthy, Powell suffered an excruciating injury forcing Carlisle to go back to the drawing board.

A possible scenario features Maxi Kleber sliding into the vacant starting role. Should that occur, the Mavericks would boast two floor stretching shot blockers, while Kleber can capably run pick-and-rolls with Doncic. However, this means Boban Marjanovic would be the lone big off the bench, and while he’s a fan favorite and effective player in spurts, he’s simply not able to play large stretches and has yet to log a minute against the Trail Blazers this season.

Dallas will have to play small and keep Hassan Whiteside off the glass after he collected 18 rebounds in the two teams’ last game. Porzingis will also need to shake off the rust quickly after going 4-of-17 from the field and 1-of-8 from behind the arc Tuesday night.

Keeping Lillard in check

Fresh off a 61-point annihilation of the Golden State Warriors, Lillard is surely smelling blood after registering 34 points in each of the previous two games while shooting 45 percent from three. The Mavericks are ill-equipped to contain someone of Lillard’s caliber, but they’ll need Dorian Finney-Smith to lock in after struggling to slow down Kawhi Leonard. With the Mavericks’ conservative pick-and-roll defensive scheme, the Trail Blazers’ superstar should be able to pick his spots, and with the groove he’s in, it could spell trouble for Dallas.

Attacking the glass

The Mavericks were thoroughly outrebounded on the offensive glass Tuesday, but tonight Dallas has the opportunity to return the favor against a Trail Blazers team that circles the bottom of the league in various rebounding metrics. Portland ranks 28th in defensive rebound percentage (70.5%), 23rd in offensive rebound percentage (26.2%), 28th in opponent offensive rebound percentage (29.5%) and 30th in opponent second chance points (15.6). Meanwhile, Dallas ranks sixth in offensive rebound percentage (28.4) and second in second chance points (15.1) meaning the Mavericks can exploit Portland’s inability to limit opponent possessions.

How to watch

The game tips off at 9:30 CT and can be watched nationally on TNT.