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3 things to watch as the Mavericks face the Detroit Pistons

The Mavericks look to even the two-game series as they take on the Pistons tonight in Detroit

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight’s game will be the second of two against the Detroit Pistons. When the Mavericks last saw this team back in December, the team was at perhaps its nadir: last place in the Western Conference, missing what felt like half of its players, and with Wesley Matthews in the midst of an epic shooting slump. Detroit won 95-85, while the Mavericks managed to rack up yet another injury (this time to Salah Mejri).

So is there any reason to expect tonight to go differently? Here are three things to keep in mind going into tonight’s game.

The Mavericks are a good defensive team

The Mavericks of February bear little resemblance to the Mavs of December. While the Mavericks’ fight for the eight seed hasn’t been without setbacks (recent losses to Portland and Boston come to mind), the team is in a much stronger, healthier position than they were two months ago, particularly on defense. In 2017, the team has the 11th best offensive rating in the league, which is impressive, but on the other end of the floor they’ve been top 10.

The Pistons have talented young players

But although Dallas has had a much better 2017 than 2016, the team still has to pick its battles and this can leave room for opponents to have very good individual performances. Last time the Mavs faced the Pistons, they were destroyed on offense by Reggie Jackson (20 points) and Jon Leuer (19) and on defense by Andre Drummond, who snagged 16 rebounds, over half as many as the entire Mavs team (30).

Like the Mavericks, the Pistons have struggled to maintain momentum this season, but there are plenty of talented young players on the team who can cause problems for Dallas if given the opportunity. Even in the last two months, Dallas has sometimes struggled against athletic young teams.

Every game counts

These two teams actually look somewhat similar. Detroit is currently sitting in eighth place in the East, but like Dallas, is locked in an extremely tight race with just a game or two between the teams above and below it. February games against teams from different conferences can start to feel a little meaningless, but this year, for these teams, every game counts. Expect to see a little more energy and effort that you may normally expect from the last game before the All-Star break.

How to watch

Tonight’s game starts at 6:30pm Central and can be seen on Fox Sports Southwest and NBA League Pass.