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3 things to watch for when the Mavericks take it to the 76ers

The Mavericks will have a tough test tonight at home against the East-leading Philadelphia 76ers.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks (29-23) will look to bounce back on the back end of a rare back-to-back homestand Monday night when they play host to the Philadelphia 76ers (36-17), after losing to the San Antonio Spurs last night. The Mavericks lost to the Sixers in their first meeting, a dominant 111-97 performance from Philadelphia at the end of February.

While the 76ers have been just .500 over their last eight games, they just finished a dominant stretch winning 11 of 13 games since that February 25 bout against the Mavericks. And with a nearly fully healthy roster, Rick Carlisle’s crew will have a tough task at home.

At the time of this writing it is unclear if any Mavericks, namely Luka Doncic or Kristaps Porzingis, will be sitting for this one after playing against the Spurs. Here’s what we’ll be watching for in tonight’s contest.

Battling length

The Sixers are one of the worst matchups for the Mavericks in the league. This is primarily due to the length they can blanket Luka Doncic with at every level. In the first battle Ben Simmons made Doncic uncomfortable the moment he crossed half court. Even the second and third line of defense — Danny Green, Tobias Harris, and Joel Embiid — leave very little room for Doncic to breathe. *Though it should be noted both Green and Harris are listed as “Day-to-Day” in a Sunday injury report.

There were moments where Luka could make his way into the lane and seemingly have a split-second of daylight to get a shot off. But often he would hesitate, surely fearing Embiid’s help defense and Simmons bearing down from behind, and bail on a look. It is what led to seven turnovers from Doncic in the game.

The Mavericks will need to find ways to get separation and keep ball movement crisp to stay ahead of this suffocating defense that has the second best Defensive Rating this season, and the number one defense over the last six weeks (102.7 Defensive Rating).

Redick debut?

The Mavericks made a last second trade at the deadline last month, but have only had one of the two players available thus far. And while Nicolo Melli has had some fan favorite moments in his eight games, everyone has really been waiting for J.J. Redick to take the floor.

Battling a heel injury that has sidelined him since the beginning of March, it appears the sharpshooting Redick has started making considerable progress since the start of April. He even practiced with the team just recently, optimistic he might be able to give it a go relatively soon.

While expectations should be low for the 36 year-old Redick, his skillset should slot in seamlessly in the Mavericks offense. Even if it’s just to expand the depth of the rotation, which has often been only seven or eight players deep, Redick’s career 42-percent three point will be a plus.

Maintaining momentum

This can often be the toughest stretch of an NBA season. Not just the wear and tear adding up making it harder to bring consistent intensity, but the games themselves get a little tighter.

The Mavericks have (sort of quietly) been a solid team over the last six weeks. Since their February meeting with the Sixers they have been ninth in Offensive Rating, fifth in Defensive Rating, and fifth in the league in Net Rating. This 14-8 stretch has not been without plenty of headscratchers, and it’s on those nights that it can be hard to remember how well they’ve played.

Tonight’s game will not be easy, especially after a game that went to the wire last night. But it’s these sort of games — late season playoff level games against elite opponents — that define a season. Hopefully we’ll be able to see how a full Mavericks roster responds to that atmosphere.

How to watch

Tip-off is set for 6:30 PM C.T., and can be watched on ESPN.