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3 things to watch as the Dallas Mavericks host the Phoenix Suns

Another measuring stick game for the Mavericks

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks play the Phoenix Suns Monday night in Dallas, hoping to avenge the season-opening collapse back in October. The Mavericks (11-11) are trying to get back over .500, while the Suns (16-7) try to increase their first place standing in the Western Conference.

Dallas lost 107-105 to this Phoenix team back on opening night, blowing a 17-point halftime lead. Since that game the Suns have done what they’ve done the last two years — take care of business in the regular season. The Mavericks, on the other hand, have had a rollercoaster season, perfectly embodied by their 11-11 record.

This will be a good test for the Mavericks. Dallas has recent losses against Milwaukee and Boston, along with an uplifting win against Golden State. If the Mavericks are truly turning their season around, how they stack up against the best in the league will be a good indicator. Here’s what we’re watching for.

Is the three point shooting back?

In the Mavericks last four games, the team is shooting 39.1 percent from three on a staggering 48 attempts per game, punctuated by their 24-of-61 shooting afternoon against the New York Knicks Saturday.

Tim Hardaway Jr. has been the major catalyst, hitting 47.7 percent of his threes in that same four game stretch. Luka Doncic has found his stroke as well, hitting 46.2 percent of his long balls in his last four. Those two represent the highest-volume three point shooters on the roster, so if they’re hot, the Mavericks are in fine shape.

The Suns are a stingy defensive team, so this will be a good test to see if the Mavericks shooting is truly back, or just a temporary blip.

Will the ‘Bang Bros’ show up?

A major part of the Mavericks inconsistency this season has been the disappointing play of their reliable forward duo of Reggie Bullock and Dorian Finney-Smith.

Both are shooting under 35 percent from three, Bullock has stopped scoring all together, the defense from both is a little worse, and Finney-Smith is rebounding at his worst rate since Doncic has been drafted. Those two were rocks during the Mavericks great playoff run earlier this year, and the team counts on them to do the dirty work, guard well, and hit their open shots.

The duo were difference makers during the Mavericks upset of the Suns last playoffs, so it’d be nice if one or both could show up during this game. Bullock at least has something to build off of, making three 3 pointers Saturday against the Knicks, his most threes in a game since Nov. 15.

Can Christian Wood make an impact?

A big narrative this Mavericks season has been the playing time of Christian Wood, the Mavericks second leading scorer who hasn’t started a game this season and averages under 30 minutes per game.

Wood was huge in the season opener against the Suns, scoring 25 points in 24 minutes. His lack of playing time in the fourth quarter was a major talking point after the loss, as the Mavericks lead died while he sat on the bench. It’s been a continuing story in almost every game since.

An interesting thing happened though Saturday against the Knicks — the Mavericks had their best defensive performance in weeks and Wood didn’t play. Wood’s defense has been a sticking point for coach Jason Kidd to give him more burn and to be fair his defense this season hasn’t been great. The argument though was that Wood’s scoring is so desperately needed that the Mavericks can live with his inconsistent defense. After the dominant win against the Knicks Saturday, one has to wonder whether that argument still holds water.

Assuming Wood is available to play Monday, it’ll be interesting to watch how he’s deployed and how the Mavericks fare with him on the court.

How to watch

The Suns and Mavericks tipoff at 7:30 p.m. CST in Dallas. You can watch on either NBA TV or Bally Sports Southwest