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3 things to watch as the Mavericks finish a grueling stretch against the Rockets

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The Mavericks catch a flailing Rockets team at home.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas deserves some level of commendation as they reach the end of a brutal stretch of five games in seven nights. Those stretches are tough at the best of times, but the Mavericks have faced the packed schedule while missing four key players and playing a majority of them on the road.

After dropping a rare three in a row, the Mavericks can complete a full bounce back by winning their third in a row against a Houston team who’s experiencing their own injury trouble. In particular, the absence of John Wall and new center Christian Wood should help ease the pain of the back-to-back games.

Scoring inside

Much was made about the Mavericks’ interior scoring coming out of a game against the Pacers that saw them score 68 points in the paint. The Pacers, like the Rockets, were without their big man in Myles Turner, and Dallas made it a point to take advantage.

Houston’s frontcourt is going to be manned largely by the duo of DeMarcus Cousins and PJ Tucker, so there will likely be more opportunities for Dallas to get a bulk of points inside. It’s a good option to have for a team that has been hot and cold from deep.

Porzingis is rolling

It feels a little bit like deja vu. Last season, as Porzingis worked back from his offseason injury, there was a bit of a learning curve on how best to utilize him. It wasn’t until his permanent move to the five that Porzingis really started to deliver night in and night out. The spacing he provides at the center spot and his ability to hunt for beneficial mismatches on the switch benefit his game a great deal.

Low and behold, with Porzingis slotted back to the five full time as a result of missing both Dwight Powell and Maxi Kleber, KP is on a roll. He’s had four consecutive games scoring 20+ points to help shoulder the bulk of the scoring load for the shorthanded Mavericks. That will need to continue if Dallas wants to start stringing some more wins together heading in to a more favorable stretch of the schedule.

Wins are already at a premium

Anyone who takes even a casual look at the Western Conference standings will likely already see the battle brewing for playoff positioning. As it stands, seeds four through 10 are sitting between seven and eight wins. It may seem early for this kind of hand wringing, but in a shortened 72 game season, we’ve quickly found ourselves over 20% of the way through.

I bring this up because, when the standings are this close, beating the teams you’re supposed to beat is important, and, well… Houston is one of those teams right now. With injuries, the Harden drama hangover, and a rookie head coach, Houston is still trying to find its footing. They’ve won just three of their last ten games and haven’t looked particularly impressive doing it, minus a beatdown of the equally hapless Magic. On top of all that, a win against the Rockets would keep the Mavericks an undefeated 3-0 in divisional play — something that may become relevant in the event the Western Conference standings remain congested through the middle seeds.

How to watch

The game tips at 8 p.m. CT and can be watched on NBA TV or Fox Sports Southwest.