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3 things to watch for as the Mavericks take on the Timberwolves again

The Mavericks welcome the Timberwolves to the AAC.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Minnesota Timberwolves Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off a sloppy loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Dallas Mavericks return to the American Airlines Center to take on...the Minnesota Timberwolves. That’s right, it’s an old fashioned home and home series.

The Mavericks (14-15) look to break a two-game losing streak while the Timberwolves (15-15) have won four in a row. It’ll be tough, because the Mavericks will be without several players again.

Reggie Bullock, Josh Green, and Maxi Kleber are all out due to health and safety protocols. Willie Cauley-Stein is out for personal reasons. Eugene Omoruyi is out due to a right foot injury, and Luka Doncic is out with left ankle soreness. Kristaps Porzingis is questionable with a sore right toe.

The Timberwolves, though, are in similar shape. They’ll be missing Patrick Beverly, Anthony Edwards, Josh Okogie, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Taurean Prince, who are all in health and safety protocols.

Here are three things to watch for during the game:

Someone needs to step up big for the Mavericks.

Dallas is missing their best player in Doncic. Porzingis is ostensibly the second best player on the team, and definitely the highest paid. If he’s good to go, he needs to have a big game. As in 40 points and double digit rebounds big. There’s no stats here, no analytics. Superstars put their foot down and refuse to let their teams lose sometimes. Porzingis wants to be a superstar. Now is a good time to prove it.

If Porzingis is too banged up to play, Jalen Brunson, who’s looking for a big payday this offseason, should look to score more often. It’s probably asking too much for Brunson to put up 30 with eight assists, but this is where we’re at now. The roster is devastated and the Mavericks are in a big slump.

And if not Porzingis or Brunson, maybe the rest of the rotation could break out of the season long slump they’re in and actually hit some open 3-pointers.

Will one of the Mavericks’ replacement players actually contribute?

The Mavericks recently signed Theo Pinson and (reportedly) Marques Chriss to beef up the roster. It was necessary and newly okayed by the NBA and NBAPA to make sure teams had enough players to actually play games. They’ve had almost no time with the team, so it’s unlikely they contribute or even get into the game. But what if someone sprains an ankle? Or pops a positive test before the game? Suddenly the Mavericks will have a player in the rotation who hasn’t even had a chance to practice with the team. That could get weird. The only reason it’s not a disaster is the Timberwolves are dealing with the exact same thing.

Continue to control the ball

The Mavericks are the best team in the NBA at not turning over the ball. The Timberwolves lead the league in forcing turnovers, and conversely, score the most points off turnovers. In the first game, the Mavericks did a great job at limiting those scoring opportunities. They only turned the ball over 12 times, but still gave up 19 points off of turnovers.

Unfortunately, though, it was just enough to put the Timberwolves over the top. They outscored Dallas by eight points on turnovers, and won the game by six. It wasn’t the only reason they won (see: the familiar failure to make shots in the fourth quarter), but it definitely helped. The Mavericks would do well to not beat themselves and keep protecting the ball.

How to watch

The game tips off at 7:30 p.m. CST on Bally Sports Southwest and NBA League Pass.