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

Lots of basketball this week

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Brooklyn Nets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks (5-3) host the Brooklyn Nets (4-6) tonight at the American Airlines Center. An unusually late tip-off at 8:45 pm will begin a rematch of their tussle in Brooklyn ten days ago. The Mavericks won that contest in overtime, 129-125.

The Mavericks are riding a three-game winning streak after hanging on against Toronto 111-110. Luka Doncic scored 35, topping the 30-point mark in the first eight games of the season. The list of players to start a season this way is succinct and historic — Luka and Wilt.

The Nets defeated the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday, 98-94, in a low-scoring affair. Kevin Durant only scored 16 points but it is fair to expect plenty of KD out of the Nets in this one given their injury and suspension issues.

Luka’s streak is about more than scoring

Doncic’s hot start in the first eight games is about more than records and MVP buzz. The Mavericks are winning games because of it. This season Luka is performing better in nearly every facet of the game. First in scoring, first in player efficiency rating, sixth in assists, eighth in steals, and top 25 in rebounding.

The question to ask as Dallas enters game number nine is two-fold. Can Luka maintain his impeccable play for another game? Perhaps more importantly, do the Mavericks have what it takes to pick up the slack if Luka has anything less than another stellar performance? Slow starts for Reggie Bullock, Maxi Kleber, and Tim Hardaway Jr. make this question loom large.

Brooklyn in disarray

In the short time since the Mavericks last met the Nets on the court, Brooklyn has descended into chaos on an order of magnitude far beyond the uncertainty that draped the start of their season. Jacques Vaughn is in as interim coach as the Nets moved on from Steve Nash. Ben Simmons is dealing with a knee injury and Kyrie Irving is suspended — mired in controversy of his own making.

That leaves Kevin Durant to lead the Nets for the foreseeable future. After an offseason of trade speculation and makeshift reconciliation, one has to wonder if this is a sum of all fears sort of outcome for the Nets that will result in an eventual Durant trade midseason. In the meantime, Durant has become even more prickly than usual.

Fourth quarter leads evaporating

Keep an eye on the flow of the fourth quarter. The Mavericks have had trouble maintaining leads down the stretch. Because of this, several semi-comfortable leads have morphed into nail-biters. This has been a convergence of defensive woes in the last six minutes and an offense that our own Kirk Henderson has begun calling “prevent offense”.

The Mavs had just enough to get past the Raptors. Will the Nets mail this one in or will they make things interesting late in the fourth quarter when Dallas has proven to be the most vulnerable?

Where to watch

Catch the Mavs and Nets with a later-than-usual tip-off time of 8:45 pm on Bally Sports Southwest and NBA TV.