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3 things to watch for as the Mavericks take on the Suns once again

The Mavericks try to steal one in Phoenix.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks are still in Phoenix on Friday, trying to avenge their Wednesday night loss to the Phoenix Suns. The Mavericks (9-5) slipped into fourth place in the West with the loss. Meanwhile, the Suns (11-3) have won ten in a row and climbed to second in the conference.

Maxi Kleber has been listed as out, and Luka Doncic has been upgraded to doubtful. Frank Kaminsky is out for Phoenix.

The Mavericks lost a close one on Wednesday night, despite outshooting the Suns from deep. But Phoenix, especially Chris Paul, were able to hit clutch shots down the stretch and clench the win.

Here are three things to watch for against the Suns:

Frank Ntilikina is carving out a role on this team.

Ntilikina scored 13 points in the first game against Phoenix. He also grabbed three rebounds and tallied one assist. He played solid defense as well, notching one steal. All this to go along with 3-3 shooting from behind the arc. It was a great performance off the bench.

All last season, the Mavericks searched for some depth at the guard position. Doncic and Jalen Brunson are a good backcourt duo, but they needed a little more help off the bench. Trey Burke was never able to regain his form from the bubble. Tyrell Terry never got going, and JJ Redick wasn’t able to get healthy.

Ntilikina was a risk-free lottery ticket, a young player brought in at a minimum contract. But he’s paying off in a big way for Dallas. If he continues to develop and play this way, the Mavericks have a steal on their hands.

The Mavericks need to protect the paint.

Dallas lost by seven on Wednesday night, despite shooting 50% on 3-pointers. That’s hard to do. Part of the reason was getting dominated in the paint. The Suns outscored the Mavericks by 12 points in the paint, 40-28. Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker especially feasted, combining for 28 points in the paint. Dallas has to find a way to protect the rim, because it’s unlikely they’ll outshoot Phoenix by such a large margin again. If they fail to protect the paint again, they could get blown out.

Porzingis has to play a complete game.

If you look at the box score, Porzingis’ numbers Wednesday night don’t look too bad. He scored 21 points, grabbed 8 rebounds, and dished out 7 assists. But he only scored seven points in the second half, all in the fourth quarter. He went almost completely missing in the third quarter. He did, however, move the ball well in the second half, picking up four of his seven assists in the third and fourth quarters.

The Mavericks need consistent scoring from Porzingis the whole game with Doncic out. It’s encouraging that he’s moving the ball well, but the Suns weren’t sending double teams at him, forcing the ball out of his hands. He just didn’t hit shots in the second half, going 2-9 from the field. And he only went to the line three times in the second half, which is just a little below his season average. But again, with Doncic out, he’s got to force the issue a little more, drive aggressively to the basket, and put points on the board.

How to Watch

The game tips off at 9 p.m. CST and can be watched on ESPN, Bally Sports Southwest, or NBA League Pass.