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3 things to watch as the Mavs try to bounce back against the Spurs…again

Mavs look to make the most of a front-loaded conference schedule

Dallas Mavericks v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

You are not experiencing deja vu. The Dallas Mavericks really are facing off for the third time in 12 games against the San Antonio Spurs. The last meeting came after Dallas had gotten slapped back to Earth by Eastern Conference contender Miami Heat. Similarly, the Mavs will now have to travel to San Antonio coming off a tough loss of the up and coming Bulls.

So far this season, Dallas is 2-0 against San Antonio - a good trend for two confusing teams. While Dallas is 7-4, San Antonio is struggling at 4-7. However, despite owning the winning record, the Mavericks point differential is a troubling -3, while the Spurs are somehow in possession of +2.1 point differential. It’s indicative of Dallas still trying to find its footing against the top competition in the league. Luckily, they’ve been able to rack up wins in the process, but there’s no guarantee that continues against a Gregg Popvich team that’s seemingly ready to break off a solid run of wins.

Die by the three

In their four losses, opponents are shooting 42.4% from three. That would be high in any season, but it’s especially striking now. Shooting league wide is down early this year. The league average 3p% sits at 34.4%, so to have teams shooting a full 8% better from distance, it’s not hard to see how the losses pile up. In their wins, Dallas’ opponents are managing just 31% from three.

In either case, teams are shooting roughly 32 shots from long distance against Dallas - that means opponents are netting close to 12 additional points from three against Dallas in games Dallas loses. In as much as it’s a make or miss league, Dallas will have to try and figure out something to prevent teams from getting hot from deep.

Can Brunson be stopped?

To some extant, Jalen Brunson’s play in this young season has been a bright spot of just about every game he’s played in, be the Mavericks’ last two run ins with the Spurs is perhaps when he shone the brightest. Even Popovich made mention of it after the last game.

“Brunson was a killer again,” he said. “In both games, he was the difference. He plays really smart, is a tough kid, he is skilled, and in the fourth quarter, he got us both times.”

It’s true. In a game the Mavs barely held on to for a 109-108 win, it was in large part due to Brunsons’ fourth quarter takeover. He shot 5/5 in the frame, and scored 13 of his 31 total points.

If Jalen Brunson can become a certified Spurs killer, the sheer numbers of enamored Mavs fans could reach a critical mass.

A Kristaps-sized boost

The Mavericks winning margins against the Spurs have been narrowing. A close five point win in their first face-off became an even closer one point win the second time around. You can practically feel Popovich’s grasp tightening around Coach Kidd and his work-in-progress offense. However, there’s one big thing Dallas will have in its arsenal for this game that they didn’t before: Kristaps Porzingis.

The numbers for KP are a little ugly this year. The Dallas offensive rating with Porzingis off the floor are a staggering 19.9 points better than with him on. On the plus side, his defensive activity seems to have returned. Porzingis has been moving well, and the numbers match the eye test here, with the Dallas D getting a small uptick with KP on the floor. Kristaps’ early season shooting trouble seems to have abated a bit in the Mavericks’ last two outings, so hopefully KP and the starting lineup can put everything together this go around against a Spurs team who’s going to be desperate for a victory over the rival Mavs.

How to watch

You can watch the broadcast on Bally Sports at 7:30 CST