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3 things to watch for when the Mavericks close out 2022 against the Spurs

The Mavericks look to extend their best win streak of the season.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks (20-16) aim to extend their December win streak to six games when they face the San Antonio Spurs (12-23) Saturday evening. Dynamic play from Luka Doncic and a cast of a few key role players has led this wave of success, even as the team battles an injury bug. They have a few more opportunities to gather steam before returning to what could be a tougher January schedule.

This is the Mavericks’ first matchup of the season against their rivals down south. The Spurs are a reliably feisty bunch under the direction of Gregg Popovich. They also dropped 16 of 17 games from November 2 to December 4, a jaw-dropping drought of basketball. Since then they’ve played close to .500 basketball, more indicative of the kind of ball Popovich can coach out of a young team.

Here is what we will watch for in tonight’s game:

Righting road woes

The Mavericks have been lackluster on the road this season, especially against bad teams. Their 5-11 record away from Dallas has been a case of no-showing and discounting opponents that either have inferior rosters or are missing stars. Of those 11 losses, most are against teams with a losing record.

At the beginning of this recent win streak the Mavericks collected wins against the Minnesota Timberwolves and Houston Rockets on the road, but the other three victories came at the AAC. It is possible the Mavericks are finally figuring out how to stay consistent against bad opponents — now they just need to also do it on the road.

Clashing styles

The Mavericks have invested a lot into shooting threes. Their entire roster is built around it, peppering the perimeter with shooters focused on Doncic’s playmaking. While they haven’t been knockdown this season (36 percent as a team), their volume mostly makes up for it. They are attempting nearly 42 threes per game, good for third in the league, and leading the league over the last two weeks with almost 45 attempts per game.

The Spurs are connecting at a similar rate (34.6 percent as a team) but are attempting nine fewer than the Mavericks per game this season. They do however share the ball well, logging 27 assists as a team per game, which ranks them third in the entire league. For those keeping score at home the Mavericks are 28th in the league in assists, with 22.1 per game. These clashing offensive styles may tell us who comes out on top Saturday night.

Christian Wood on defense

Since being promoted to the starting lineup on December 17 no other player in the league has more blocks than Christian Wood. He has 19 blocks in those seven games, and he has at least two blocks in each game of this stretch.

Some of this could be a case of block hunting, fighting from being out of position, trying to recover or bait opponents into a block. His defensive numbers don’t indicate he is a stopper or rim protector. But Wood’s engagement on the defensive side has been a plus. Even while Jason Kidd’s hand is being forced to play Wood more, that he can expect that level of effort can only be seen as a positive.

How to watch

Tip-off is set for 6 PM CT, and can be watched on BSSW or the Bally Sports app.