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Preview: Dallas Mavericks vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

Feb 28, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins (22) drives against Dallas Mavericks guard Wesley Matthews (23) at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 28, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins (22) drives against Dallas Mavericks guard Wesley Matthews (23) at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Dallas Mavericks look to maintain their winning ways against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Here’s what to know.

After a stretch in which the Dallas Mavericks lost five of six games, the team has turned things around enough to win three straight and insert themselves back into the playoff picture. They’ll look to maintain their winning ways against the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday, a team that has averaged just 82 points in their last two games.

Dallas has been riding the hot hand of J.J. Barea, the gutsy play of Wesley Matthews, and the center-by-committee rotation to wins over the Denver Nuggets, New York Knicks, and Detroit Pistons this week, despite Dirk Nowitzki‘s efficiency tailing off a bit.

A win in Minnesota would give the Mavericks a lot of momentum heading in to their big game Wednesday against the Houston Rockets, another squad vying for one of the final spots in the playoffs.

Here are some players to watch, and numbers to know ahead of tip-off.

Players to Watch

J.J. Barea

J.J. Barea is about as polarizing a player among fans as the Dallas Mavericks have on the roster, but even his strongest detractors have to admit the veteran guard has been tremendously valuable as of late. With Deron Williams and Chandler Parsons out with injury, somebody had to pick up the slack offensively. So far, that’s been Barea.

In Barea’s last five games, he’s averaged 21.6 points (53% FG, 50% 3P) and 6.0 assists in 30 minutes a night. Barea had 26 in Dallas’ two-point victory over the Knicks, and then followed it up with 29 in their huge win over Detroit. Barea has come up big for the Mavericks when they needed it most before, so this isn’t entirely shocking. Count on him to continue his inspired play against his former team.

Karl-Anthony Towns

Minnesota has a stable of young players worth the price of admission, but rookie Karl-Anthony Towns is the cream of the crop. The kid has been a double-double machine in his first season as a professional, averaging 18.3 points and 10.3 rebounds on the season. He’s already incredibly skilled, able to score from all over the floor as a 20-year old.

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Towns has already had a 27 and 17 game against Dallas this year, the Mavericks can’t fall asleep against him as he pushes to secure this season’s Rookie of the Year Award.

Numbers to Know

88.7

Dallas has won three straight, but it wasn’t because they were shooting the lights out. During their streak, the team has shot just 42.6% from the field overall, and 33.3% from long distance. No, the recent success can mostly be attributed to the team’s stingy defense. In the last three games, Dallas’ opponent has averaged just 88.7 points a night and 17.3 turnovers.

The Mavericks are in a good position to maintain that stinginess, as Minnesota has failed to score more than 85 points in three of their last four games.

53.3

In two games against Minnesota this season, Dirk Nowitzki has shot 53.3% from the floor. This is good, since after sitting out Dallas’ game against Golden State, Nowitzki has shot just 31.5% from the floor in four games. The Mavericks have been winning with their defense, but at some point they are going to need Dirk to knock down shots. We’ll see if he snaps out of his funk against the Timberwolves.

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