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3 things to watch as the Dallas Mavericks take on the Washington Wizards

A challenging opportunity to keep things headed in the right direction

Dallas Mavericks v Washington Wizards Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Dallas Mavericks (35-27) just narrowly defeated a lowly Pistons team. It’s an easy trap to complain about one of the many things that went wrong in that game, but for a team battling for positioning outside of the play-in tournament, a win is a win. With 10 games left on their schedule, it truly is time to flip the switch into playoff mode. The Mavericks need to win every game they can to hopefully secure a few rest days before their first-round series. That starts tonight against the Washington Wizards (28-34).

A New Team

The Wizards are not the same team they were when Dallas went to Washington in early April. Washington was without Bradley Beal, but Dallas was also without Kristaps Porzingis. It didn’t matter for the Mavericks, who cruised to a 109-87 victory.

But since April 6, the Wizards have completely turned things around. For starters, they began winning, and have won 11 of their last 13 games. Their defense looks significantly different than the team that was easily giving up 120+ points a night earlier in the season. Since April 6, the Wizards have the fourth-best defensive efficiency in the NBA. They rank 11th in offensive rating during that time span but are first in field goal percentage and seventh in three-point percentage. This game is far from a layup with how the Wizards are playing right now.

Turn off the trade machines

Bradley Beal is not providing any sort of relief to the Dallas fans who have been clamoring for him to play alongside Doncic. The Wizards have had success lately, and it’s no surprise that Beal has been an integral part of that. He’s played in all but one of the Wizards’ last 13 games and is averaging 31.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game during that stretch. Perhaps more importantly, he’s doing it with incredible efficiency. Beal is shooting 49.6 percent from the field, 39.7 percent from deep, and 89.7 percent from the free-throw line over his last 12 games. That’s a margin of .04/.03/.03 away from being a 50/40/90 player across an entire month. That’s a special player and one that will make life difficult for the Mavericks.

Going according to plan?

The Mavericks have 10 games and are fully in control of their destiny. I’ve attached a picture of what the remainder of the schedule looks like here:

Source: ESPN

The Mavericks have a golden opportunity to collect some insurance wins and gain momentum before the playoffs. According to Tankathon, Dallas has the third-easiest remaining schedule in the NBA and it’s easy to see why. The games against Brooklyn, Miami and Memphis will all be good challenges, but other than that, the Mavericks' most dangerous opponent may be themselves.

Six of the remaining games (including this one, where the Mavericks will play the Kings the next day) are back-to-back situations. Now Dallas needs to be precautions, especially with injuries lingering on the roster, but they also need to ensure a comfortable position in the standings. The Mavericks have also had their fair share of struggles against teams they should be beating. Right now is a perfect time to shake that bug. Washington is no easy win, but it could a tone-setter.

How to watch

This game will tip at 8 p.m. CST and will be televised regionally, as well as usual NBA League Pass coverage.