DALLAS — The Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers will go head-to-head on Friday night at the American Airlines Center. Game 3 projects to be a competitive affair with the series currently even at one game apiece. Mavericks forward PJ Washington referred to Game 3 as a “must-win” for Dallas.

“It’s a must-win,” Washington said on Friday morning following the Mavericks shoot-around. “Everybody knows that. You got to obviously protect home. In the playoffs you got to win the home games… So for us, just a game we need to win.”

PJ Washington has an opportunity to make a huge impact on Friday. The Clippers will focus on containing Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, which could lead to a big game for Washington at home.

So what will the Mavericks' X-factor be in this game? Obviously, the defense has been important to begin the series. Winning the rebound battle always helps as well. For this Dallas team, though, three-point shooting may end up being the difference on Friday.

Mavericks' three-point shooting will be pivotal in Game 3

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) shoots the ball over Los Angeles Clippers guard Terance Mann (14) during the first quarter of game two of the first round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Crypto.com Arena.
Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

In the Mavs' 96-93 Game 2 victory in Los Angeles, the team shot 14-33 (42.4 percent) from beyond the arc. In their Game 1 109-97 defeat, Dallas went just 10-33 (30.3 percent) from deep.

The Mavericks relied on three-point shooting quite frequently to begin the 2023-24 campaign. During the second half, they moved away from having it determine the outcome of games. Still, the Mavs found ways to utilize long-range shots throughout their impressive second half of the regular season.

So why will three-point shooting be incredibly important on Friday?

The Clippers have made an effort to protect the paint. Dallas often turned to alley-oops with Daniel Gafford and Dereck Lively II during the season, but the lob opportunities have not been as present against Los Angeles.

“Yeah, that's their gameplan, make Luka score,” Mavs head coach Jason Kidd said on Thursday after practice. “So I don't know if we can get them (alley-oops) back, we got to take what they give us. And right now, that's what they're giving us is to see if Luka is going to take those shots. He's gotta be able to make them but they're not giving us the lob. Our quarterbacks have to take what they're giving us.”

Gafford is currently listed as questionable for Game 3. If he misses the game, it will be even more important for the Mavs to find consistency from deep.

The Mavericks almost scored the exact same amount of points in Game 1 and Game 2 despite the efficiency difference from beyond the arc. Of course, momentum is crucial in a playoff game. And it is difficult to find something that gives a team more momentum than a clutch three-point shot late in a playoff game, isn't that right Luka Doncic?

Video via the NBA:

In the end, the Mavericks would love to score more points. Dallas' defense is playing well enough to keep them in games right now, though. If the Mavs are efficient on their three-point attempts on Friday, they should have an excellent chance to win Game 3.