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3 things to watch for when the Mavericks host the Bulls

Dallas looks to bounce back against a Bulls team that has lost three straight.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Chicago Bulls Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

After a strong start to the season, the Mavericks are now 6-7 in the last 13 games but look to bounce back against the Chicago Bulls who sit at 13-23 on the season.

The Bulls are stocked with talented youth, led by Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. which can make them dangerous any given night if they execute. Though they only sport the 28th best offensive rating (105.1), Chicago boasts the fifth best defensive rating (105.1), only a tenth of a point behind the Los Angeles Lakers.

As of this writing, Dallas is expected to be without Tim Hardaway Jr. and Kristaps Porzingis. While they are still the more talented team, the Mavericks need to put together a complete game, from start to finish, against an inferior foe.

Here’s what to watch for Monday night:

Earning free throws

Saturday night the Mavericks were on the wrong end of the free throw disparity. Charlotte earned 31 trips to the line compared to only 13 for Dallas. Even further the Mavericks stunningly attempted two free throws on drives to the paint:

That’s water under the bridge at this point, but Dallas needs to keep the aggressive mentality and attack the basket against a Chicago team that averages 22 fouls per game while registering the leagues highest opponent free throw rate (.314).

On the other end, Dallas comes in slightly above the league average free throw rate (.265) while settling into the top-ten in opponent free throw rate (.242). Essentially, there is margin for Dallas to capitalize on a Chicago weakness, but must shake off last game’s lack of non calls.

Limiting turnovers

Behind only the Orlando Magic, the Mavericks take great caution in protecting the ball, committing only 13 miscues per game. Reducing turnovers is clearly a key to every game, but it’s even more paramount against the Bulls who generate a league-best 21.4 points off of turnovers and lead the NBA by a healthy margin with 10 steals per game. Fortunately for Dallas, this plays into a strength, as the team only allows 14.9 points off of turnovers per contest, but the Mavericks will still need to be leery, of transition buckets considering they give up the second most fast break points.

Maxi Kleber’s dominance

In the wake of Kristaps Porzingis’ injury, Kleber has been nothing short of brilliant. In those three games, the German native has averaged 21 points, four rebounds and two blocks while shooting 67 percent from the field and 56 percent from behind the arc on a ridiculous eight attempts. Those numbers certainly aren’t sustainable, but he’s clearly risen to the occasion with a big part of the team’s identity missing. And while the Bulls as a team are less than impressive, they tout a handful of talented big men, namely Carter Jr. and Markkanen. The Mavericks were sold on Kleber’s potential when they locked him up with a multi-year deal last summer, and that move looks shrewd while he’s on this torrid stretch.

How to watch

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