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3 things to look for when the Dallas Mavericks face the San Antonio Spurs

Dallas looks to make it a 3-0 lead in the I-35 Rivalry this season.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Since February 1, the Dallas Mavericks (29-22) have won 21 games and lost only 10. It’s been a great tear that places them fifth in the league in winning percentage over that time. The Mavericks felt like a work-in-progress for most of the start of the season, facing massive hurdles such as a COVID-19 outbreak and missing Kristaps Porzingis to open the season. Dallas isn’t a perfect team now, as they still sit seventh in the Western Conference standings, but they look a lot more like the team we expected.

As for the San Antonio Spurs (24-26), the state rival is starting to transition into their rebuilding phase. Since LaMarcus Aldridge played his last game in San Antonio, the Spurs are just 7-13. It’s been an especially rough last 12 for the Spurs, as they’ve gone 2-10 and suffered losses to the Cavaliers, Hawks and Kings. Even with the less than impressive record, San Antonio still has plenty of young talent that make them a tough win any given night. Let’s take a look at three key things heading into Sunday’s matchup:

The Maverick Killer

DeMar DeRozan has to be holding something personal against the Mavericks. In two games against Dallas this season, DeRozan has totaled 59 points, 17 assists, five steals, 24 free-throws attempted, and only two turnovers. It’s amazing how effortless it has looked for him this season. DeRozan’s versatility creates a world of problems for any team, but especially Dallas. DeRozan can handle the ball in the pick-and-roll, forcing bigs to switch onto him. That’s exactly what happens for Dallas, as Porzingis has defended nine DeRozan shots this season, the most by any Maverick. The Mavericks will have to find ways to keep themselves out of these situations to have the best chance at a win.

Battle of the Rotations

The Mavericks’ rotation this season has been quite the situation to monitor. Dallas has been running a playoff rotation for the majority of the season, but especially after their roster got whole. Since March 1, the Mavericks are second-to-last in bench minutes per game, trailing only the Sacramento Kings. Dallas’s starters are averaging a whopping 32.6 minutes per game over that stretch. Giving your best players extended minutes certainly helps you win, but it’s a truly a waiting game to see how the Mavericks can handle this much burn as the playoffs creep up.

Meanwhile, San Antonio places in the dead-center of the league in bench minutes over that span. The key for the Spurs, however, is how much youth they’ve incorporated into their lineup. Since March 2 (when Aldridge stopped dressing for San Antonio), the Spurs have six players ages 25 and younger averaging more than 15 minutes per game. During that same time, the Mavericks have just three: Luka Doncic, Jalen Brunson, and Porzinigs.

Who will we see?

If you’re trying to guess what the Mavericks will do during a back-to-back, you might as well shake a Magic 8-Ball. Some nights we see just Doncic, others just Porzingis, sometimes neither, but it’s almost never both. The Mavericks have amassed a record of 4-6 on the second night of back-to-backs this season. Including this double header against San Antonio and Philadelphia, Dallas has six back-to-backs remaining on their schedule. So, who will we see? A full roster, or will some be given the night of to hopefully knock off the 76ers? Shake your Magic 8-Ball, and let me know what it reads.

How to watch

This game tips-off at 7 p.m. CST and will televised on Bally Sports Southwest as well as NBA League Pass.