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3 things to watch for as the Mavericks look to bounce back at home

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The Mavericks have dropped five of their last seven games. Can they turn things around tonight against the Pistons?

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Mavericks are in an all-out tailspin right now. They’ve lost five of their last seven games, including their last four at home. Their most recent loss was one of the worst of the season, a 14-point blowout to a struggling Sacramento Kings team.

Now, the Mavs find themselves sitting at an uninspiring 30-26 with 16 games left. They’re running out of time to avoid to leapfrog the Portland Trail Blazers and avoid the Play-In Tournament.

The first step to getting back on track is getting a W against a horrible Detroit Pistons team. Here are three things to watch for:

Can Luka and Kristaps survive on defense?

The age-old adage that “it starts on defense” has survived the test of time for a reason. It may seem cliché, but turning things around when you’re struggling often does start with defense. That goes for teams as well as individuals.

Check out these numbers that our very own Ryan Mainville dug up:

That’s... not good. And by “not good,” I actually mean horrible. There’s no excuse for Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis being that bad on the defensive end of the court. Nobody’s expecting them to be Ben Simmons and Rudy Gobert, but they need to be better, and they can be.

When you’re that bad on defense, it’s probably an effort thing. That’s fixable. Hopefully, Luka and KP will be motivated to work a little harder on defense tonight.

The game should be over before halftime

The Mavs are prone to starting slow. They haven’t won a first quarter since April 8th. That means they’ve either been tied or losing heading into the second quarter for the last seven games. That can’t happen against bad teams like the Pistons.

Tonight, the Mavs need to make a statement early. They need to show the basketball world that they care, and ultimately, that they're a lot better than the Pistons. The latter should be obvious, but I’m not confident in very much these days.

Dallas needs to jump out to a big, early lead and never look back. They need this to be one of those games where the starters don’t have to touch the court in the fourth quarter.

Getting a body on Isaiah Stewart

Pistons rookie center Isaiah Stewart has quietly been on a tear the last three games. Over that stretch, he’s averaging 17.3 points and 16.3 rebounds (6.0 offensive) per game on 62.9 percent shooting from the field. He’s finding his NBA footing, and he’s finding it fast.

The Mavs’ aren’t exactly known as a rebounding monster, so it’s imperative that they focus on getting a body on Stewart early and often. They can’t let him get going with offensive boards. Controlling the glass is a great way for the Mavs to turn their struggling defense around.

How to watch

This game is scheduled to tip off at 7:30 pm CT on Bally Sports Southwest and NBA League Pass.