By Bryan Murphy
There aren’t many chances in this league, where a team is able to avenge a loss against a team in a one week span. The Dallas Mavericks were able to do just that this past week in just two days.
After squaring off in a heavyweight, overtime battle with the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday, the Mavs had to venture on up to the Mile High City and play the Denver Nuggets shorthanded. Coach Rick Carlisle sat Dirk, Tyson Chandler, and Rajon Rondo that night and the Mavs greatly missed the presence of those three guys in the 114-107 loss.
Carlisle went on to say after the game that shutting down the big German for the night was a ‘no brainer’. Resting Dirk paid dividends. He was the game’s high scorer with 25 points and was hitting from all cylinders in the 97-89 victory.
The Mavs are now at the halfway point of the season. At 28-13, Dallas also sports its best record through the first 41 games since 2007-2008.
Tyson Chandler spoke to reporters about the state of the team through 41 games and he knows there is work yet to be done.
“I think we’re in a good place,” Chandler said. “We still have to grow defensively.”
The sudden emergence of playing time and productivity for Dwight Powell could help the Mavs ‘grow defensively’. With the lack of production from the back-up center position since losing Brandan Wright in the Rajon Rondo trade, Carlisle has dug deep into the bench. Powell has logged a combined 43 minutes of playing time in the last two games. He’s provided a spark off the bench from the big-man spot that Greg Smith hasn’t been able to provide to the Mavs.
The Mavs will greatly need production from Powell and the other Mavs big men as they travel to Memphis to face the Grizzlies Monday afternoon. The Mavericks lost the only other meeting with Memphis this season, 114-105. The reasons the Mavs lost that game were simple. Dirk and Monta Ellis played horrifically, shooting a combined 5-of-28 from the field. They also could not compete down low with the Grizz, who arguably have the best big-man tandem in the NBA with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.
The Mavericks will then travel up to Minnesota to face the 7-32 Minnesota Timberwolves. This is an absolute must win game for the Mavs seeing as the only other team with a worse record are the New York Knicks. The T-Wolves are without three of their key players. Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic, and Ricky Rubio have all played a combined 23 games this season because of injury.
That has given rookie sensation, Andrew Wiggins, a chance to shine with this squad. Wiggins is the leading candidate for Rookie of the Year averaging 15.2 PPG and 4.3 RPG. If the Mavs want to avoid the upset, they’re going to have to keep Wiggins from having a monster game.
The Mavs then close out the week with two weekend games. The first one is against the Chicago Bulls at home on Friday. The Bulls are 27-15 and one of the top contenders from the Eastern Conference. Chicago has a deep and well-balanced line-up. The Bulls have many potential 2015 all-stars in Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol, and Jimmy Butler. Butler will definitely be a player to look out for. He starts this week averaging 20.6 PPG and 6 RPG; both are career highs.
The Mavs won the only other meeting with the Bulls this season, 132-129. It was an insanely wild, double overtime thriller. The star of that game was Monta Ellis who had a season high 38 points and hit many clutch shots down the stretch.
The second game is in New Orleans on Sunday against the New Orleans Pelicans. The Mavs have already played the Pelicans twice this season already, winning both of those meetings. The Pelicans are led by Forward Anthony Davis. The 21-year old Davis is having the best season of his young career so far, averaging 24.2 PPG, 10.4 RPG and nearly 3 BPG.
The Mavs will be battle-tested to start the second half of the season. They will play a top team from the West, the worst team in the West, a top team from the east, and then capped off against a team with a potential MVP candidate. Let’s just say, we’ll have a good look at where the Mavs stand after this week is all said and done.
1/19 @Grizzlies 4:00 pm
1/21 @Timberwolves 7:00 pm
1/23 vs Bulls 7:00 pm
1/25 @Pelicans 5:00 pm