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3 things as the Mavericks are back in action against the Wizards

The Mavericks are welcomed back from their Thanksgiving break by one of the league’s more surprising success stories.

NBA: Washington Wizards at Dallas Mavericks Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas is set to hit the hardwood again after an abnormally long recess, getting three full days of rest over the Thanksgiving holiday. A scheduling oddity not shared by Washington, who will be playing the second night of a back to back in Dallas after playing in OKC on Friday.

Doncic was back after missing three games with an ankle and knee injury, and he played well in the OT win against the Clippers. Hopefully, he’ll have benefitted as much as anyone else from the few extra days to ease some of the bumps and bruises that accumulate in the course of an NBA season.

The biggest question mark in terms of health will be Jalen Brunson who left the game in LA after Ivica Zubac landed on his foot. X-rays on Brunson’s foot came back negative, thankfully indicating he avoiding any major breaks or injuries that would see him miss major time. Whether he’ll be ready enough to play Saturday is yet to be seen.

Conning a con-man

Washington comes into this game fourth in the East – something very few could truthfully say they saw coming. Their situation is not so dissimilar to Dallas’. That is, a solid record and good standing in their conference in spite of a point differential that suggests they should be a fair bit lower. Washington’s 0.6 differential isn’t as ugly as Dallas’s -1.3, but it is the second lowest of the top 10 teams in the East.

By and large, too much stat tracking early in the season is fairly uninformative until about the 20 game mark. Well, as we inch closer to that now, we’re going to see what’s real and what was a small sample size mirage. The Wizards have lost 5 of their last 6 games prior to their tilt against the Thunder, and may be trending back to the middle of the pack where they were expected to be preseason. If that’s the case, all the more reason Dallas needs to come out playing strong. The Mavs’ point differential is a bit wonky due to some blow out losses and rough stretches of injuries, but if the team really is a top 4 team in the West, they need to start playing like it, and that means beating teams like Washington.

Hard rock and immovable object

To the extent you believe Washington is actually a good team and not just masquerading as one, much of their success to this point has a lot to do with the defense they’re playing. The Wizards are giving up the fewest three point attempts in the league this year, and their opponents are hitting only 32.5% of them – good for 6th worst percent in the league. With the three pointer being such a big part of the Mavs offense, and the league as a whole, Washington’s ability to take that out of their opponent’s game has them giving up the 10th fewest points in the league.

For their part, Dallas takes the eighth-most threes in the league, and generates “wide open” (no defender within six feet) looks for 20% of those, which they convert at 40%, good for 7th best in the league. It’s a matchup between two competing styles of basketball, and whoever executes best will likely walk away with the win.

Don’t settle for short jumpers

With Washington running teams off the three point line, those offensive possessions have to go somewhere. The Wizards allow the most shots between 5-9 feet in the league. And that’s just fine with them, because team’s are shooting only 30.3% when they take them, good for second in the league.

However, when teams are able to move those short jumpers to actual shots at the rim, within five feet, Washington falls apart. Teams are shooting 65% on the Wizards there, fourth worst in the league.

This is particularly pertinent to Dallas, and especially Kristaps Porzingis. He’s been on a tear of late, but to keep that going, he needs to fight to for positioning down low. As the season’s gone on, it does seem like KP has been working to move his post up catches deeper in the lane, which is a positive development. It’s easy enough for a 7’3” guy to catch the ball wherever he wants and then simply turn and shoot – or, often, fade away in KP’s case. Playing that way against Washington will be taking the exact kind of shot the Wizards are hoping to generate, and it would be best not to play directly into their strength.

How to watch

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