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Mavericks vs. Thunder Preview: 3 things to watch as Dallas takes on OKC

Mavericks looking to start a new win streak

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off a solid win against the New Orleans Pelicans, the Dallas Mavericks attempt to start a new winning streak Sunday, going on the road to take on the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Mavericks took down a depleted Pelicans squad on Saturday, with Luka Doncic notching another 30-point triple double. Doncic will likely rest on the second night of a back-to-back, so other Mavericks will have to step up.

Oklahoma City still sits outside the play-in seeding, but has been frisky lately. They recently blew out the Celtics last and won two of its last three games. They’ve scored at least 115 points in all three of those games, so the Mavericks struggling defense will need to be ready.

Here’s what we’re watching.

If no Luka, can the Mavericks win?

Luka Doncic will likely rest on the second night of a back-to-back. Coach Jason Kidd made a joke about how it seemed obvious after Saturday’s win, since Luka was playing deep into the fourth quarter next to end of the bench players McKinley Wright and Frank Ntilikina. If Luka does play against the Thunder, him racking up 39 minutes in a controlled win against the Pelicans will be franchise malpractice from the Dallas coaching staff.

So likely without Luka, can the Dallas is 0-3 without Luka this season, including some embarrassing losses to the Rockets and Bulls. Dallas can barely win when Luka doesn’t even score 30 or more points, so winning without him entirely will take a massive effort from the rest of the rotation.

Christian Wood, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Tim Hardaway Jr. will all have to have big scoring games. Also, maybe Mavericks second round rookie Jaden Hardy can keep the vibes going....

Is this Jaden Hardy run for real?

Hardy has scored 15 points in back-to-back games, first against the Celtics on Thursday and then the Pelicans on Saturday. While both impressive efforts from the Mavericks rookie, Hardy’s 15 against the Pelicans came outside of garbage time when the game was still being decided. It was fun to watch.

With the injuries to the Mavericks rotation and the team recently waiving Kemba Walker, this is a massive opportunity for Hardy to earn regular rotation minutes going forward. It’s really hard for any contending team with title aspirations to count on a second round rookie, but Hardy has enough talent to make the coaching staff have to think twice about it.

The Thunder aren’t great, but they offer a lot of length on the perimeter. If Hardy can duplicate what he did against the Pelicans and continue to finish around the basket, that would be huge. With probably no Luka, Hardy will have another great opportunity.

Take care of business

The Mavericks recent turnaround has come from the team finally beating the teams they’re supposed to. Dallas has won eight of nine games, and all eight wins were against teams the Mavericks were favored against. Even if Doncic doesn’t play, except the Mavericks to be favored once again against the Thunder.

This is an especially important game because it’s the first of a tough five-game road trip. After this, Dallas travels to the West Coast to play both Los Angeles teams and Portland twice. All four of those teams can be tough matchups on their home floor, so the Mavericks need to sock away this win against a bad Thunder team.

How to watch

You can catch this game on Bally Sports Southwest or NBA League Pass at 6 p.m. CST.