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3 things to watch for when the Mavericks take on the Pacers

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The Mavericks are limping into the month of February and face a Pacers team struggling to integrate Victor Oladipo back into the lineup.

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Staring at a third game without Luka Doncic, the Mavericks will head to Indiana to take on a Pacers team still acclimating with the return of Victor Oladipo.

The Mavericks, who are 16-7 on the road, will welcome Kristaps Porzingis back to the lineup but will be without the services of Seth Curry, who exited Saturday’s game in the fourth quarter with knee tightness.

This is the first matchup between the two teams who have both lost two of their last three games. Here’s what to what for Monday night:

Kristaps Porzingis as the focal point

When a star player goes down, teams need other players to step up, and that’s exactly what Porzingis has done when Doncic has missed time with two separate ankle injuries. In the six games Porzingis has played without Doncic, he’s averaged nearly 25 points and 14 rebounds while shooting 35 percent from three. He played 35 or more minutes in all but one of those six games signifying the Mavericks reliance on the Latvian big man.

It’s clear that Porzingis’ light is brighter and greener without Doncic, which is something the Mavericks need without their point guard’s shot creation. But it’s almost becoming peculiar how much better Porzingis looks as the number one option. At the very least, he’s forcing Carlisle’s hand to start scheming sets that blends the two players strengths with much more frequency. Porzingis should be on one end of a fantastic matchup with Trinity High School alumnus Myles Turner.

Checking Domantas Sabonis

Arguably the Pacers best player, Sabonis is putting together a career year in his fourth NBA season averaging 18 points and 13 rebounds. In January, Sabonis registered two triple doubles flashing his playmaking chops and has been on the cusp of a 20 point, 20 rebound game multiple times this season. While Porzingis is a shot-blocking threat, big men who seek contact can mitigate Porzingis’ length and timing. Dallas will have to rely on it’s stable of big men to slow down Sabonis who will set several ball screens, post up and even attack of the dribble.

Dallas will have to get creative on offense

Coming in to Monday’s game, the Mavericks rank first in the league in percentage of points that come off threes (38.8 percent) and second in the league in percentage of shots that are behind the arc (45.6 percent). However, the Pacers have schemed teams away from the three-point line, allowing opponents to shoot only 34.2 percent from behind the arc on 32.3 three-point attempts (8th fewest in the NBA) per game.

Dallas can find an advantage on the offensive glass. The Mavericks trail only the Clippers with 14.9 second-chance points per game, while the Pacers are a bottom-ten team in the league giving up 13.6 second chance points per game to opponents.

How to watch

The game tips off at 6 CT and can be watched on Fox Sports Southwest or NBA League Pass.