By Bryan Murphy
The Dallas Mavericks were easily at its lowest point of the season last week following the 33-point blowout loss to Cleveland. How did the Mavs follow that up? Well, with a 30-point blowout victory against a very good Clippers squad that had dismantled Dallas twice already this season. This Mavs team that showed up Friday night is something Mavs fans haven’t really seen all season. After that embarrassing loss to LeBron and the Cavs, Amar’e Stoudemire called out the Mavs when speaking to reporters in the locker room. “We can’t screw around in shootarounds and practices and joke around all the time and figure we’re going to win games. This is the pros.”
This Mavs team responded to that big time. It could also be the result of Rajon Rondo receiving the play calling keys from Coach Rick Carlisle. Rondo was calling most of the offensive plays and him and the rest of the Mavs performed the way many Mavs fans believe they should have been performing since they acquired Rondo back in December.
Will Carlisle now allow Rondo to take over most of the play calling duties from here on out? We will see this week starting with a massive showdown Monday night against the I-35 rival, the Oklahoma City Thunder. OKC comes to town clinching onto the eight seed in the West and sporting a 37-19 record, just 4.5 games behind Dallas.
Although reigning MVP Kevin Durant will be unavailable once again (foot), the Mavs have to worry about another guy who is putting up insanely ridiculous numbers and his name is Russell Westbrook. Not only does he lead the league in scoring averaging over 27 PPG, but Westbrook has been playing the best basketball of his career since the All-Star game, where he was named of MVP. In the first 10 games after the All-Star break, he has averaged over 34 PPG, 10 RPG, and 11 APG. Westbrook has also recorded five triple-doubles in that span, while having four of those in consecutive games spanning from February 26 to March 4. Westbrook is an extremely elite category seeing as the last player to piece together four consecutive triple-doubles was Michael Jordan in the 88-89 season. He has emerged as a clear MVP candidate with his out-of-this-world play and the question isn’t who will stop him. The question is, who is going to keep this guy from splashing in his ninth triple-double of the season.
Wednesday night, the 21-47 Orlando Magic come to the AAC in hopes of derailing the Mavs’ playoff surge. This will be the second and final meeting this season between the two teams. In the previous meeting, Dallas won handedly 108-93 but that was the game that Richard Jefferson’s knee accidentally fractured Rondo’s orbital, causing Rondo to be out for a stretch of games. Orlando is a very young team with rising stars such as Victor Oladipo and Nikola Vucevic but this would be a devastating loss for Dallas seeing as the schedule gets brutal for the rest of March.
The Mavs’ five game home stand will be capped off with the fourth and final meeting with the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night. Despite losses to Boston and Washington last week, the Grizzlies still hold on to the two seed in the West with a 46-20 record. The Mavs look to even out the season series against this big bruising Grizzlies unit, seeing as this could potentially be a first round playoff series. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph need to have big performances seeing as point guard Mike Conley will most likely be coming back from a minor ankle injury he sustained last week against Boston. This will be the toughest game of the week for Dallas and a victory heading into the Sunday road game in Phoenix would be colossal.
The Mavs will try to accomplish something on Sunday that they haven’t done all season, and that is to defeat the Phoenix Suns. It’s been a while since the Mavs have faced the Suns, December 23 to be exact. The Suns have also made a few trades since then. They sent Goran Dragic, (who demanded to be traded) to the Miami Heat and received Brandon Knight from the Milwaukee Bucks in return.
The Mavs will face former Maverick Brandan Wright, the high-flying big man the Mavs lost in the Rondo trade back in December. Wright has been efficient for Phoenix, averaging 7.3 PPG and 5 RPG since the All-Star break. The player to really look out for in this matchup is combo guard Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe can jump through the roof and sometimes you forget he’s just 6’1”. Bledsoe is averaging 17.2 PPG, 6.1 APG and nearly 2 SPG. If Bledsoe doesn’t destroy Dallas’ defense and if Tyson Chandler can take advantage of the lack of a legitimate down low presence for Phoenix, the Mavericks should be riding high into next week’s double-header against the San Antonio Spurs.
3/16 vs Thunder 7:30 pm
3/18 vs Magic 7:00 pm
3/20 vs Grizzlies 7:30 pm
3/22 @Suns 8:00 pm