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4 things to watch for when the Mavericks host the Clippers Thursday night

It’s always good to beat the Clippers

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Los Angeles Clippers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks (32-23, fifth in the Western Conference) welcome the Los Angeles Clippers (27-29, eighth in West) to the American Airlines Center on Thursday night for the first of two straight meetings between these two teams in Dallas. The Clippers will stay in town after this game and they’ll play again Saturday night.

Tim Hardaway Jr. (foot), Kristaps Porzingis (knee) will miss the game and Sterling Brown (foot) is questionable. The Clippers have been ravaged by injuries and will be without their two stars, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, as well as the little used and unfortunately named, Jay Scrubb.

The Mavs will be looking for their fourth straight win while LA has dropped their last two while surrendering 137 points to Milwaukee and 135 to Memphis.

Here are four things to watch for during the game:

Points in the paint - Something has to give

The Clippers have turned in two straight terrible defensive games against two good offensive teams. They’re 27th in allowing points in the paint on the season and Tuesday night the Grizzlies outscored them in the pain 78 - 40. LA is integrating Norman Powell and Robert Covington who were recently acquired from Portland. New players trying to learn a new defensive scheme on the fly could certainly account for a less than cohesive defensive effort.

Unfortunately, the Mavs are 26th in the league at scoring points in the paint and are dead last in that category during this 3 game win streak they’ve built on the back of their defense and, you know, playing Detroit. They shoot well from the paint but just don’t do it very often. But like Tuesday against Detroit, we’ve seen this Mavs team move the ball really well against defenses with poor rotations and the Clippers’ defense has qualified of late.

Grudge match!

I don’t know about you but part of the reason I get hyped for every game against the Clippers is that it’s another opportunity for Luka to punish Marcus Morris his sins of playoffs past. The Clippers, who have eliminated the Mavs in the last two playoffs, always get a motivated Luka. Unfortunately, every meeting is also a chance for Morris Sr. to end someone’s season like he almost did to Ja Morant on Tuesday when Ja went up for a break away dunk and Morris recklessly slammed him to the ground. Reggie Jackson also seems to save his best game for the Mavs. So, these are two teams with history and their games always feel like good old fashioned grudge matches.

3 point shooting watch

The Mavs have been shooting 41.5% from three point range during the winning streak but just 33.8% for the season. Dallas has been inching that percentage back up closer to league average behind hot shooting from Reggie Bullock (44.6% in the last 10 games) and Luka Doncic (38.5% in his last 10). With Luka seemingly revitalized and breaking down defenses, the open looks will be there on most nights for Reggie, Dorian, Maxi, and company. This team needs to continue to stack strong defensive efforts on top of improved shooting to advance beyond the first round of the playoffs.

Who’s on the team?

Oh, yeah. Maybe there will be some trades Thursday afternoon. And maybe not!

How to watch

Tip off is at 7:30 PM CST. You can watch locally on Bally Sports Southwest and out of market on NBA League Pass.