The Denver Nuggets (43-21) are heading South for a matchup with the Dallas Mavericks (39-27) that could be a playoff preview depending on how these two teams finish the season. Each team has been up-and-down over the last 10 games with 5-5 and 6-4 records for each side respectively, and they’re looking to find the proper footing heading down the back quarter of the season.

For Denver, they’re in a tight battle with the LA Clippers for the second seed in the Western Conference. They’re just 12 game behind the Clippers, and they have a path to moving up the standings after sweeping the Milwaukee Bucks for the season on Monday night. For the Mavericks, they have a 6.5 game lead over the eighth spot, but they’re just 2.5 games out of the four spot. Every win matters a ton for them.

Denver has made no sense this season with games they win vs their losses. This is a game that could go either way. The two sides have split the season series thus far, and a win would guarantee them at least tying the series by season’s end. The end of the year is when you want to start playing your best basketball, and that goes for both sides.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (43-21, 18-13 away) @ Dallas Mavericks (39-27, 18-15 home)

When: 6:00 p.m. MST

Where: American Airlines Center

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy..unless its the romanticized 18th-century type. AltitudeTV where available. League Pass for non-Denver market viewers. Show up in Dallas. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio

Rival Blog: Mavs Moneyball

Expected Starting Lineups:

DAL: PG Luka Doncic, SG, Tim Hardaway Jr., SF Courtney Lee, PF Kristaps Porzingis, C Dorian Finney-Smith

DEN: PG Jamal Murray, SG Gary Harris, SF Will Barton, PF Jerami Grant, C Nikola Jokic

Injuries: Seth Curry (Ankle) Out, Willie Cauley-Stein (Illness) Questionable, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Illness) Questionable

Three Things to Watch

Can they contain Luka Doncic?

Earlier in the season, Luka was in the discussion for the MVP award. That conversation has cooled, but he has still been one of the 10 best players in the NBA this season. He’s averaging 28.5 points, 9.4 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game. With Tim Hardaway also playing well this year, it’s likely going to be on Jamal Murray to slow him down. Can he do that?

Nikola Jokic and Who?

On Monday night, the Nuggets took down the Bucks, although they were resting multiple starters. Jokic had just 10 points while Paul Millsap, Jamal Murray and Jerami Grant combined for 60 of the team’s 109 points. Jokic is on far more than he’s off, and it’s all about who’s on in addition to him. The team trades off on who goes off on a nightly basis. Personally, I think Will Barton is due for a big night.

Can Denver’s Defense Get It Together?

The Mavericks are number one in the NBA in offensive rating this season, and, over their last five games, they have the second-ranked defense. Denver, meanwhile, has been beaten by the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers and gave up 132 to the Clippers in the last two weeks. This is a squad that can take advantage of any defensive lapses, and Denver can’t afford any of them.