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3 steps to beating the San Antonio Spurs (for once)

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You heard it here first!

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The San Antonio Spurs -- like clockwork — sit atop the Central Division, and historically, the Dallas Mavericks have been just a step behind. This season, however, they are practically a mirror for each other, with the Spurs claiming as many losses as their one time rival Mavs have wins.

San Antonio defeated Dallas last Monday, making it six straight against Big D (including a series sweep last season), and giving Gregg Popovich his 1100th victory. It was an honor so humbling for the coaching legend that after the game Popovich referred to his players as pathetic and then stormed off.

With several key players who were missing from that Monday matchup set to return for the Spurs, and Dirk still sidelined for the Mavs, does Dallas have any hope of pulling out the upset win? Here’s how they might do it:

Guard the 3 point line

Remember that thing Cleveland did two games ago? Well, the only team in the league who shoots the long ball better than the Cavs is -- surprise, surprise — San Antonio. They don’t take nearly as many per game as Cleveland, but if Dallas can’t rotate quickly, the AAC will go down in flames until the only thing left is the cackling of professionally terrible telecaster Sean Elliot, floating just above the scorched, dry air.

Slow the pace

This really should be the key to every Dallas game at this point. They simply don’t have the kind of offensive weaponry to outgun teams. Not happening. What they have is a bunch of tough, scrappy, hard-nosed, cliche-inducing dudes who can grind it out in an ugly, 71-68 type game. Think Ivy League basketball score and you’re in the neighborhood.

Ride the hot hand of Wes Matthews...but not too much

It’s been lost in all the games Dallas has...well, lost, but Wes Matthews has suddenly started shooting the ball well again. He’s over 43 percent from downtown in the month of November, and the last seven games he’s been especially hot, after enduring what had to have been the worst stretch of shot-missing in his career, professional or otherwise. Still, as happy as I am to see him hint at turning things around, I know what will happen if he starts getting featured as the first option on offense. Let Wes shoot...when he’s open.

How to watch

Tipoff is at 8:30 Eastern time, 7:30 Central time, on Fox Sports Southwest or League Pass.