By Bryan Murphy
The week from hell for the Dallas Mavericks is finally behind them. It certainly didn’t go the way the Mavs had hoped, losing an overtime thriller to Cleveland and getting blown out of the building in road losses to Oklahoma City and San Antonio. But, one of the few positives they can take away from the rough week was the road victory against Chicago.
In that game, Wesley Matthews and company were able to hold All-Star Jimmy Butler in check for just four points on 2-of-11 shooting and held the Bulls as a team to just 77 points in all. Dallas will need more defensive outings like that this upcoming week if they want to get back on track and put this past shaky week behind them.
The Boston Celtics come to town Monday night for the only time this season to begin the week. The Celtics are much improved this season and winners of its last three games. Loaded with superb young talent, the Celtics are certainly not one of those “give me” games against the Eastern Conference on the schedule. Isaiah Thomas, an offensive wizard on this high-scoring Celtics squad, leads the team in scoring and assists. But, they are loaded at the guard position with Thomas playing alongside Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart, who played high school basketball at Flower Mound High School. Smart is still coming back from a leg injury that has kept him sidelined for 21 games this season but was still able to record his first career triple-double on Friday in somewhat limited minutes.
Former Maverick, Jae Crowder is also making his return to Dallas and he has been having a fantastic season and an even better month of basketball in January. Crowder is averaging nearly 19 PPG, 5 RBG and 2 SPG while shooting 40 percent from three in January.
Dallas then hosts the lowly 12-26 Minnesota Timberwolves. The previous time these two teams squared off, the Mavs did a good job on the defensive end against the Timberwolves two lottery picks, especially Karl-Anthony Towns. The key to coming away with an easy win is to not let both of those guys go off and try to make guys like Kevin Martin or Shabazz Muhammad beat you.
The Mavs then look for some revenge when the Oklahoma City Thunder head on down to Dallas. These two teams met just like week in a game that was strange from start to finish. Head Coach Rick Carlisle decided to rest the Mavs’ starting five of Williams, Matthews, Parsons, Nowitzki and Pachulia due to the fact they had lost a long overtime battle the night before to the Cavs. With no surprise, Dallas was already getting blown out before halftime and ended up losing 108-89. But, in that game, a fire was lit under J.J. Barea. Barea and Thunder superstar Russell Westbrook had a couple of minor scuffles which led to Westbrook losing his cool and getting ejected with zero points. The rematch of this game should be completely different with the Mavs playing fully loaded this time around barring any injuries or suspensions.
The Mavericks will end the week in Houston to face James Harden and his Rockets. Harden has continued to mold into a superstar in this league and MVP candidate. He averages 27.6 PPG, 6.7 APG and 6 RPG but he scores many of his points from the free throw line and has been ridiculed heavily on Twitter this season due to his lack of defense and effort at times. Although he can light it up from three and score from almost anywhere, his style of play can often be quite annoying to watch.
The Cavs were able to keep him in check, keeping him to just 11 points and 8 turnovers on 2-of-10 shooting but almost every other time, Harden will get his. Dwight Howard has really picked up his play as of late and will be a force to deal with. Howard has recorded a double-double in nine of his last ten games and seems to be back to his All-Star form. This team is loaded with role players that have the capability to go for 20 or 30 points any given night. Don’t let that happen, and Dallas could cap off the week triumphant.
Upcoming Schedule – All Times Central
1/18 vs Celtics 7:30 pm
1/20 vs Timberwolves 7:30 pm
1/22 vs Thunder 7:30 pm
1/24 @Rockets 2:30 pm