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Mavericks vs. Bulls preview: 3 things to watch for as Chicago comes to town

The penultimate game of the season

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Chicago Bulls David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off the heels of a thrilling victory against Sacramento, the Dallas Mavericks will welcome the Chicago Bulls to town on Friday night as they fight for the final play-in spot. At one point in the not-so-distant past, it looked like this game would have massive implications for the Tankathon standings; but at this point, with Dallas still mathematically alive for the 10 seed, it appears as though the team will do everything possible to win out. The Mavericks need help from Oklahoma City, but a win against the Bulls is absolutely crucial to extending their season. Here are three things to watch for as they aim to do just that.

The Bulls will be shorthanded

Yesterday, Bulls insider K.C. Johnson reported that Chicago is likely to rest DeMar DeRozan, Zach Lavine, and Alex Caruso for Friday night’s game. The Bulls are locked into the 10 seed in the East and want to play their guys in the regular season finale, so the Mavericks will go up against the Chicago B-Team. One might think that this would make for an easy win, but Dallas has shown that beating teams without their best players is no simple feat. The infamous Hornets games a couple weeks ago are the perfect example. Dallas will have to play with desperation and intensity, regardless of the level of competition.

The Bulls prefer twos

Chicago attempts 66.7% of their field goals from two-point range, 2nd in the NBA. Conversely, they are 29th in the NBA in attempting threes, at just 33.3% of total field goals. The Mavericks, who lead the NBA with 48.5% of field goal attempts from three, play a vastly different style than these Bulls. On paper, this bodes well for Dallas; when they handily win the three-point battle, the usually win the game. But they will need to keep Nikola Vucevic and the Bulls out of the paint and cash in on their own three point attempts in order to handle their business.

Sitting, Waiting, Wishing

If the Mavericks do vanquish the Bulls, they will be at the mercy of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s result against the Memphis Grizzles on Sunday afternoon. The Thunder beat Utah last night, bringing their magic number to clinch a play-in spot to 1. If they win on Sunday, the Mavs will be eliminated, regardless of what happens against San Antonio. Not being able to control their own destiny is unfortunate. This is not the season anyone envisioned, and it looks like their fate could come down to the final day.

Where to watch:

The Mavericks and Bulls will tip off at 7:30 PM CDT on Bally Sports Southwest.