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3 things to watch for when the Mavericks clash with the Rockets

The Mavericks will try to make quick work of the lightest game of the week.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks (44-28) play host to the Houston Rockets (18-54) Wednesday night. In a heated battle for playoff seeding the Mavericks will hope to secure an easy victory while teams like the Utah Jazz and Minnesota Timberwolves face stiffer competition.

The Mavericks grabbed a key victory Monday in the first of two battles against the Timberwolves. It was a playoff-like atmosphere, in what should feel common late in the season as teams jockey for position. That’s why it will be even more important that the Mavericks make easy work of Wednesday’s matchup.

The Mavericks are currently nine point favorites against the Rockets, which says to me the betting markets think Houston will hang around.

Powell as weapon

Dwight Powell has had a pretty solid March. Since the all-star break he’s averaging 11.9 points, six rebounds, while also shooting 67-percent from the floor. When Dallas met Houston back on March 11 Powell had the best game of his career, posting 26 points, 12 rebounds, two blocks (9-of-11 from the field).

More and more recently teams are pushing their traps on Luka Doncic higher and higher on the floor, and the Mavericks are countering with Powell slipping to the center of the floor for either an easy basket or opening it up to him distributing in a four-on-three situation. It would be preferred that Powell doesn’t have to become a secondary point guard, but his ability to help break pressure is a key part of the Mavericks’ offensive success. He’s had six straight games of two or more assists, and the Mavericks are 4-2 in that stretch. Hopefully he can build off Monday, where he posted 22 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two steals.

Josh Green in rhythm

Though he is still a fringe rotation player at best, Josh Green has taken advantage of extra opportunity recently. In the last game against the Rockets Green started as Jalen Brunson sat for rest, and he had a nice showing: 10 points, six rebounds, four steals, and two blocks. He is an energy player that you can see feed off the rhythm of his previous play — even if at times his energy gets the best of him.

The best news for his development with the Mavericks is he looks a little more confident comfortable shooting the three. In the month of March he’s averaging 43-percent from deep (still just two attempts per game). Because of the low volume it may not keep defenses honest, but seeing that progress could bode well long term for his fit in the offense and his role with the team. If the Mavericks take care of business early it could be mean extra run for Green. It would be nice to see him put together another solid showing.

Getting to the line

One way the Mavericks did damage in the last matchup was at the line — mainly from Doncic and Powell. The two combined for 19 of the team’s 28 free throws. That’s nearly double their career averages.

The Mavericks, who rank 23rd in the league at 20.8 free throw attempts per game, need to make a better effort getting to the line — in this game and others. It’s possible it will be easier against the Rockets, who are 24th in the league in personal fouls per game. If the Mavericks can stay assertive early on offense, they should be able to repeat their success from the 11th.

How to watch

Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. CT and can be watched locally on Bally Sports Southwest or nationally on NBA LeaguePass.

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