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3 things to watch for as the Mavericks try to stop the Wizards

The Mavericks look to snap a two-game losing streak in Washington, DC.

NBA: Washington Wizards at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The opponents don’t get any easier as the Mavericks try to move on from their 100-78 drubbing at the hands of the Toronto Raptors. Game two of their four-game East Coast swing features the Washington Wizards, who happen to be one seed up on the Raptors.

The Wizards are also coming off a Monday loss, but have generally been playing well, having gone 22-6 since a two-game losing streak to start the year. With their own recent two-game losing streak, the Mavericks now find themselves 3.5 games back from Denver for the eighth seed.

Road woes

The Mavericks are 8-23 on the road this year. It’s a curious matter that probably speaks to the team’s youth and injuries, but if it seems like a long time since they’ve won on the road, it is. Their last road win was nearly six weeks ago when they beat Portland 108-104 on Feb. 3.

Their ratings just go backwards in every respect when the Mavs travel. The team’s offensive rating drops from 106.7 at home to 101.1 on the road, while the defense goes the other way from 102.4 to 108.8. The net difference is astounding, swinging from +4.3 at home to -7.7 on the road.

The underlying factors are a bit harder to pick up on, but their free-throw attempt rate (the ratio of a team’s free throw attempts to their field goal attempts) is a glaring one. The Mavericks’ FTA rate goes from .255 to .191 when they leave the American Airlines Center, while their opponent rate goes up from .275 to .296. That’s a pretty big swing that helps explain a good chunk of those ratings shifts. The other key factor is their defense, as their opponent effective field goal percentage goes from 50.4 percent at home to 55.2 percent on the road.

John Wall and Bradley Beal are a superstar backcourt

Yes, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson get way more shine, but this Washington duo might have the best scoring backcourt in the league this year. One of the bigger All-Star snubs out East, Beal has averaged 23 points per game on a Dirk-ian 17 shots. His efficiency for a guard is frightening with a shooting split of 48/82/40 (also Dirkian). The Real Deal Beal has been on fire of late, and his efficient game is a key reason for the Wizards’ success.

Beal’s running mate Wall has been more of an all-around guy, averaging 23 points and 10 assists with two steals per game. Wall is the latest Eastern Conference Player of the Week, and he is averaging a career-high in points, steals, field-goal percentage, free-throw attempts and free-throw percentage. More fuego.

The Mavs are going to have to throw everything at these guys.

Noel is expected to be back

The prized big man returns after missing three games due to a sore left knee. Noel has averaged 26 minutes in six appearances as a Maverick and has been productive in those limited minutes, averaging nearly a double-double. The 22 year old is three years removed from a left ACL tear and also had surgery in October on the same knee, so his minutes will be something to watch.

Dwight Powell has stepped up in Noel’s absence (17 minutes per game over the last three games) but expect Powell’s minutes to fade. Previously, he averaged only six minutes per game and had two DNP-CDs when Noel played.

How to watch the game

The Mavericks will take on the Wizards in DC at 6:00pm Central. You can catch the game on Fox Sports Southwest or NBA League Pass.