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3 things to watch for when the Dallas Mavericks take on the Detroit Pistons

The Mavericks might play a normal game this time, right?

Atlanta Hawks v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

The Dallas Mavericks (31-23, fifth in the Western Conference) welcome the Detroit Pistons (12-41, 14th in the Eastern Conference) to the AAC in Dallas on Tuesday night. The Mavericks are fresh off a weird win against the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday, and are in the middle of a six-game homestand.

Tim Hardaway Jr. (foot), Maxi Kleber (knee), Kristaps Porzingis (knee), and Sterling Brown (foot) are all listed as out for the game. Isaiah Livers (foot) is the only player listed as out for Detroit. Cade Cunningham and Josh Jackson are listed as day-to-day.

Dallas is 18-10 at home this season, while the Pistons are 4-23 on the road. The Mavericks are 6-4 in their last 10 games. The defense has slipped a little lately, allowing 106.7 points per game in that stretch. They’ll have to watch out for the Pistons, who have been putting points on the board lately. They’re averaging 108.4 points per game in their last ten.

Here are three things to watch for during the game:

Watch out for the Pistons’ quick hands

The Pistons are ranked eighth in the NBA in steals per game. They’re seventh in points off of turnovers. Detroit isn’t very good, but one way to lose to them is to hand them free points. The Pistons are 29th in the NBA in points per game, though they’ve been in a groove lately. The Mavericks need to make the Pistons work in the half court to score, specifically rookie point guard Cade Cunningham. This will be Cunningham’s first look at the Mavericks’ stingy defense, and he’ll likely struggle.

Luckily the Mavericks are still one of the best teams at protecting the ball. They commit the third fewest turnovers in the league, and the fifth fewest points off turnovers per game. If they take care of the ball like usual, they’ll keep the Pistons in check.

Keep the Pistons off the free throw line

The Pistons have a free throw rate of .249, good for eighth in the NBA. That means for every four field goal attempts, they shoot a free throw. That’s pretty good. They’re ninth in the league with 21.9 free throw attempts per game. They’re not great at hitting them, however. They’re only 14th in the NBA in free throw percentage at 77.7%.

But it’s the same as the turnovers above. Don’t give the Pistons free points. Outside of Jerami Grant, they don’t have any great individual shot creators. If the Mavericks can make them work for points, they’ll leave with a win.

Protect the rim

The Pistons are seventh in the league in attempts at the rim. They’re not great at finishing, though. They have the second-worst field goal percentage in the restricted area in the NBA. Only the Oklahoma City Thunder are worse.

The Mavericks need to wall off the paint and force the Pistons into open 3-pointers. They’re tied for last in the NBA in wide open 3-pointer percentage, only hitting 33% of those easy shots. As we saw against the Thunder, who are another poor 3-point shooting team, there’s always the risk they catch fire and make the game close. But with the Pistons, it would seem the risk is low.

How to watch

The game tips off at 7:30 p.m. CST. It can be seen on Bally Sports Southwest and NBA League Pass.