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3 things to watch as the Dallas Mavericks face the Brooklyn Nets

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The Mavericks get their first look at Durant and Irving this season

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Brooklyn Nets Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks (37-28, 5th in the Western Conference) have won seven straight games against teams not from Sacramento. Unfortunately, they have faced the Kryptonite Kings three times since April 18th, making them 7-3 over their last 10 games. Overall, this has been a good and necessary stretch for Dallas. They’ve looked discombobulated at times, but they’ve (usually) been able to pull themselves together and get a win.

Since April 19th, the Mavericks rank in the top-11 of team field goal percentage (5th), three-point percentage (7th), turnovers (11th), and offensive rating (3rd). That’s good basketball, and they’ll need it to continue against the Brooklyn Nets. Brooklyn (should be) by far the hardest game remaining on the Mavericks’ schedule, as they are the only team left that currently has a winning record. What does Dallas need to do to get a win and continue building insurance away from the play-in game? Let’s take a look:

Lineup fluidity

65 games in, the Dallas Mavericks are facing one of the biggest lineup questions of the year: What on earth do they do with Josh Richardson?

To put it lightly, Richardson has been inconsistent this season. But lately, he’s managed to finally be consistent — but unfortunately, it's been consistently bad. Over his last 10 games, Richardson is averaging 10.8 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game on 39.6/33.3/88.9 shooting splits. The storyline of harping on Richardson is tired at this point in the season, but he’s simply not playing to a standard where his spot in the first five is secured.

Against Miami, Rick Carlisle decided to shake things up and start Josh Green in the second half over Richardson. It completely changed the game. Green had probably his best performance of the season, and Richardson played really well in the second half. Will changes like these continue? Will Richardson come off the bench one game? Whatever the Mavericks decide, it has to happen quickly. The playoffs are close.

I need a medic!

The Mavericks are listing Kristaps Porzingis (right knee soreness) and Maxi Kleber (right Achilles soreness) as OUT for this one. Dallas is 13-12 in games without Porzingis this season and 7-10 in games without Kleber (Statmuse). If you think trying to keep up with the Mavericks’ injuries has been tiring, you should try monitoring the Nets.

All three stars in Brooklyn have missed time for various reasons, but James Harden actually appears to be the one with the most drastic impact. The Nets are 27-7 with Harden this season but only 7-10 without him (Statmuse). Harden has now been out for over a month and it’s unlikely he’ll see the floor in this one. Even as the Mavericks catch a break with Harden, they’ll still likely have to face Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.

Repeat?

When the Mavericks and Nets first squared off at the beginning of this season, Dallas got a statement victory. The Mavericks dominated the entire game, leading once by 22 and winning the game 115-98. It was a big victory, even without Durant and Irving.

Both of the stars have been active in four out of the team’s last five games and performed very well over that span. Durant’s numbers are unbelievable — averaging 33.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 1.3 steals and a block per game. He’s putting up that production while shooting 55.8 percent from the field, 53.3 percent (16-of-30) from deep, and 91.3 percent from the stripe. It’s a small sample size, but it shows what a unique challenge Durant is when he’s healthy.

Irving is averaging 23.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game during that stretch. He’s developed a shooting split of 43.5/33.3/90.9 to go alongside those numbers. How does Dallas manage to keep up with both of those players? I’m not sure, but if they continue the season’s trend of playing to the level of their competition, they should do alright.

How to watch

This game will tip off at 6:30 p.m. CST with a national telecast on TNT.