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3 things as the Mavericks try to snap the slump against the Clippers

It’s Dallas’ first losing streak of the season and I’ve already forgotten what a win feels like.

NBA: Preseason-Los Angeles Clippers at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Without Luka Doncic and Maxi Kleber, Dallas was feisty in two losses to Phoenix, leading late in both games. Ultimately, fourth quarter onslaughts by Phoenix handed Dallas their first back to back losses of the season. It’s a shame, as this season Dallas was 6-0 when going into the fourth with a lead, but without Doncic in crunch time, the Suns were just too much to handle.

Jason Kidd said after the loss he was “hopeful” Doncic would be ready to play Sunday, so that will certainly be something to keep an eye on.

This will be Dallas’ first time facing the Clipper this season – a matchup that’s become a bit of a rivalry, one sided as it is – since the teams have faced each other in two competitive playoff series over the last two seasons. The Clippers dynamic duo, for now, is reduced to a dynamic solo, as L.A. will be without Kawhi Leonard. Paul George has been carrying the load in the meantime, leading the Clips in points, assists, and steals. Stopping Paul will be paramount to the Mavs chances of earning a win, as outside of him, the Clippers don’t have much in the way of volume scorers. Reggie Jackson has elevated his scoring, but is a hot and cold shooter, and the only other Clippers averaging 10 or more points per game are Luke Kennard and Eric Bledsoe.

Cue the reversion to the mean

The aforementioned Reggie Jackson is shooting just under 34% from three this season; a scosche below his career average, and well shy of his blistering 43% mark from last season. The Mavericks have their own shooter who has yet to hit his stride – Tim Hardaway Jr.

Hardaway is shooting 35% so far this season. A mark similarly short of the nearly 40% he’s shot over the past two seasons in Dallas. Both Hardaway Jr and Jackson are coming off bad shooting nights in losses. Hardaway had a 7 of 21 from the field (including 2/10 from three) performance whereas Jackson shot a brutal 2 of 11 against the Pelicans. With both teams potentially missing their centerpiece, the importance of those secondary scorers is heightened. If either Jackson or Hardaway Jr. can get hot and find their stroke again, it would provide a definite edge for their respective squads.

A whole game of Porzingis

Kristaps has played well since returning from an early season lower back injury. His defense has looked energetic and he’s been active on the boards. He had two decent scoring nights in Luka’s absence in Phoenix, but in both games, solid first halves gave way to fairly meager second halves.

Wednesday, he was 5-11 for 24 of his 21 points that game, followed by a 2-9 second half. On Friday, Porzingis was 5-10 in the first half for 12 points in the first. He scored 11 points in the second half, but only took three shots (making all three) in the entire second half.

Porzingis has himself mentioned that he’s lost his legs down the stretch in these games, and conditioning isn’t something that can be fixed from one game to the next, but Dallas is in desperate need of a go-to option late in these games, and the most obvious choice would be Dallas’ max contract man, Porzingis. Especially against a Clippers squad who just let the Pelicans’ big man Jonas Valanciunas go off for 26 in a win. Porzingis has shown against teams like the Spurs that he can take advantage of squads with shallow front court depth, and with Marcus Morris on the injury list for L.A. he might get that chance again.

Reports of the three pointer’s death were greatly exaggerated

Some of new coach Jason Kidd’s preseason comment about potentially shooting less three worried many Mavs fans as being counter to how the modern NBA offenses operate.

Those worries have so far been proven to be unfounded, as Dallas is shooting the 6th most threes per game this season. However, after Friday’s loss where Dallas shot just 30% from deep, coach Kidd had this to say:

“If we are going to rely on shooting the three we’ve got to make them,” Kidd said. “We had a lot of open looks that didn’t go down. We have to get better at that.”

That this team is a live by the three/die by the three team is no great surprise. In the Clippers, Dallas will likely face an even stiffer defensive effort. Phoenix ranked 21st in opponents three point percentage. The Clippers are more towards the middle of the pack at 15th. Better, but certainly not impossible to overcome. A hot shooting Pelicans team who entered the game with just two wins on the season was able to pull off a win, after all. If Dallas can start decent and not fall off a cliff again in the fourth, they give themselves a solid chance to get back into the win column.

How to watch

You can watch the broadcast on Bally Sports at 2:30 pm CST

Here’s our latest episode of Kirk Your Enthusiasm, where Kirk talks with Clips Nation editor Sabreena Merchant. If you’re unable to see the embed below, click here to be taken to the podcast directly. Or go to your favorite podcast app and search Mavs Moneyball Podcast.