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Mavericks vs Hornets Preview: 3 things to watch for when Dallas looks to bounce back against Charlotte

The Mavericks need to lock-in on two straight games against the struggling Hornets.

Golden State Warriors v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Tim Heitman/Getty Images

The Dallas Mavericks (36-37) will attempt, once again, to recompose themselves after a gut punch of a loss at home Wednesday night to the Golden State Warriors. They face the Charlotte Hornets (23-51) Friday night, as the team fights for a chance at the playoffs.

Wednesday’s game, which saw the return of Luka Doncic to the lineup and the exit of Kyrie Irving due to injury, was full of conflict. Just ask the Mavericks, they can’t stop talking about it. As was reported postgame and continued on Thursday, Mark Cuban and the organization intends to file formal protest after a strange sequence in the third quarter ended with the Warriors getting an easy basket. There is little chance the Mavericks will be successful in their plea.

Instead, they’ll look to get back on track, or at least find the track, when they clash with the Hornets. Here is what we’ll be watching for in tonight’s game.

Hardy hope

Mavericks Rookie guard Jaden Hardy has taken advantage of recent growing opportunity while both Doncic and/or Irving have been absent. Over the last seven games Hardy is posting 19 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game while shooting 47-percent from three. He’s averaged 26.2 minutes per game in those seven (three starts) and that’s including the game against the Lakers on March 17 where he logged six minutes and three points.

There is little to pump your fist about as a Mavericks fan lately, but the second rounders growth and flashes of potential is certainly something to smile about. While his impact to close this season may not prove consistent, there’s at least some hope in his future role.

All these final games are must win for the Mavericks. Watch for Hardy’s role.

Staying focused

Though the players haven’t spent free time since Wednesday’s loss debating on social media the merits of confusing referee signals or the instructions from an in-arena announcer, plenty in and around the organization have. When something like this becomes a multi-day “event” the true task at hand can often push to the background.

Combine with that the Mavericks’ insistence on not taking lesser teams seriously and Friday’s matchup could be trouble. It will be up to the players to come ready from the start. Whether it’s for their sake or ours, it would be nice to see the Mavericks grab a win that didn’t require clutch minutes, dicey in-bounds plays or last second shots. Since February 1 the Mavericks have played the second most clutch time in the league with 66 minutes, and the most clutch games in that span (17 games). Unfortunately that 7-10 record in those games ranks them 25th in clutch win-percentage.

Facing double

The Mavericks will play host Friday night to the Hornets then turnaround and face them on Sunday in Charlotte. This season the Mavericks are 3-7 in games where they’ve faced the same team twice in a row, whether a back-to-back or with a day off in between.

The Hornets are battling injury, with LaMelo Ball leading the report out of Charlotte. They also just played Thursday night, a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. These are both clear reasons the Mavericks should take Friday’s game. And there’s no reason they shouldn’t win Sunday as well. These are the gimme-games the Mavericks desperately need. But it will be worth monitoring scheme and adjustments, especially with both Irving and Tim Hardaway Jr. being listed as “Questionable”.

How to watch

Tip-off is set for 7:30 CT and can be watched on BSSW.