After starting the season at 3-5, the Dallas Mavericks are now riding a five-game winning streak as they head out west to face Kobe Bryant and the L.A. Lakers, Chris Paul and the revitalized L.A. Clippers, and Al Jefferson and the Utah Jazz.
Part of the longest road trip of the season, which includes a fourth game on the road against the New Orleans Hornets next weekend, this upcoming three-game foray into the western sky catches the Mavs feeling like the sun has just begun to shine on them. After an understandable, though frustrating, miserable start, the team is energized and clicking on about seven of eight cylinders right now.
Last Three Games
In one of the last three games (Wednesday night), the Mavericks beat the Boston Celtics 90-85 at Boston, with Jason Terry leading the scoring for Dallas with 18 points. In the game, Mavs center Brendan Haywood had 11 rebounds, leading the way for Dallas. A very tight game throughout, Dallas took advantage of a Celtics miscue with just seconds left to put the game away.
Returning home to face the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night, the Mavericks fired a blazing 52% from the field and were relentless throughout the game. The offensive pressure came from all corners of the court. The Dallas cross-court offense was executed smoothly by Delonte West and Jason Terry, and the Bucks were defeated 102-76. It was a game in which power forward Dirk Nowitzki scored his 23,000th point, a milestone reached by only two other active players, Kobe Bryant and the Celtics’ Kevin Garnett.
The Mavs defense was devastating in Saturday’s game against the Sacramento Kings. A road weary team, the Kings could not get any kind of offense started. Scoring only 23 points in the first half, the Kings now have the dubious honor of being the lowest-scoring opposing team in Mavericks history for one half of play. The halftime score was 52-23. In the second half, the Mavericks completed their strong defensive effort, keeping the Kings to a total of 60 points. The final score was 99-60.
Next Three Games
Dallas heads now to the land of movie stars and earthquakes. Complementing the natural phenomena, as well as the Hollywood manufactured ones, are two very good basketball teams.
The first contest will be between the Mavericks and the Lakers. Both teams are riding tides of success over the past few seasons. The interesting matchup will not be one of skill (though it will prove to be interesting as well), but will be Dallas’ Lamar Odom playing against his former team.
Odom has continued to express disappointment in leaving the Lakers, and though his Dallas teammates have given him some space to make adjustments, the local fan base is not completely convinced yet that Odom wants to be a Maverick. However, his effort and his output are coming along much better in the past week, and one would have to think he is looking forward to seeing his friend Kobe Bryant and all his former Lakers teammates. Dallas fans just hope he won’t accidentally throw the ball to Kobe for a 22-foot jumper out of habit. The game is on tomorrow, January 16, and it can be seen on TNT at 10:30 pm EST.
After the Lakers, Dallas will be playing the L.A. Clippers, newly revived with their acquisition of point guard Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets. The perennial whipping post of the NBA’s Western Conference, the Clippers have posted a 6-3 record to start the season. Paul is making a difference, and the Mavs will have their hands full in containing him. The game is on Wednesday, January 18, and it can be seen nationally on ESPN at 10:30 pm EST.
On Thursday, Dallas travels to Utah to play the Jazz. They will face former teammates from the 2006 NBA Finals team, Devin Harris and Josh Howard, as well as Jazz center, “Big Al” Jefferson (formerly of the Celtics and Timberwolves).
Down the Road
The Mavericks are still making a lot of adjustments to their lineup. With Jason Kidd playing again (after recuperating from soreness in his back), the starting lineup is Jason Kidd, Delonte West, Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, and Brendan Haywood. As of late, however, the full second team has been getting more playing time as coach Rick Carlisle is concentrating heavily on what he calls “energy conservation” during this crammed schedule.