By Bryan Murphy
Back-to-back losses to Eastern Conference foes isn’t exactly what the Dallas Mavericks needed heading into a week where all four games on the docket this week are against Western Conference opponents. Granted that Rajon Rondo (suspension), Tyson Chandler (hip), Amar’e Stoudemire (rest), and Chandler Parsons (ankle) all did not play in the blowout loss to the East leading Atlanta Hawks and Tyson and Parsons also didn’t play in the tough loss to the Brooklyn Nets. You still shouldn’t lose at home to a below .500 Brooklyn squad. That’s only the fifth time this season the Mavericks have lost to a team with a below .500 record in 29 games.
But, we’re in a new month and a new week. To start off this week, the red-hot New Orleans Pelicans come to town. Winners of five games in a row, the Pelicans have been defying all odds by winning games without All-Star forward Anthony Davis who has been out with a shoulder injury and point guard Jrue Holiday who has been out with a leg injury. Other players like Eric Gordon and Omer Asik have been stepping up greatly in their absences. The Pelicans come in just half a game out of the last playoff spot behind the Oklahoma City Thunder in the West with a 32-27 record and are desperately looking to continue its winning ways to stay alive in the West.
Dallas then embarks on a three game west coast road trip and it’s a brutal one. The Mavs first head to Portland to play the Portland Trail Blazers who are currently fourth in the West but just one and a half games up on the Mavs. The previous time these two teams faced each other was a wild night of basketball as Dallas overcame a double digit fourth quarter deficit to win it in overtime. DMC (Dirk, Monta, Chandler Parsons) all had massive performances that night, all recording at least 20 points. To no surprise, the Mavs had a difficult time with All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who had 25 points and 14 rebounds, and All-Star point guard Damian Lillard, who dropped 26. If the Mavs are going to avoid a vengeance win by Portland, they are going to have to do a better job at on the defensive end with those guys while at the same time not let the sharp shooting two guard Wesley Mathews have a big game as well. Mathews is fourth in the NBA in three pointers made with 168 and has also attempted the second most threes in the NBA with 429, only behind Steph Curry’s 434 attempts from behind the arc.
Speaking of Steph Curry, Dallas then will venture farther south to Oracle Arena in Oakland to square off with the Golden State Warriors the following night. It will be the third meeting this season between the two teams, Golden State winning both of those games. The last time the Mavs played the Warriors, Curry put on a show. The MVP candidate put on a dazzling dribbling display to match his insane shooting stroke as he put in 51 points, 26 of those in the third quarter alone. The Mavs once held a 22-point lead in that game before giving it away. One key note to point out though, both times Dallas has played Golden State this year; they have been without the services of Rajon Rondo. The first meeting was before Rondo was a Maverick and the last game Rondo was out with an orbital fracture.
We all know about the struggles Rondo has been having since coming to Dallas and the blowup with Rick Carlisle last week, but I’m sure Mavs fans would all love to see what Rondo can do when guarding a basketball wizard like Steph Curry. Of course the Warriors, who have had the best record in the West for quite some time now, have more players that can put on a show that aren’t named Steph Curry. All-Star Klay Thompson is scary good and only getting better. Thompson is more than capable of going on a scoring explosion too. He also has a 50 point scoring output this season and scored 37 points in the third quarter of that game alone. Not to mention, Oracle Arena is one of the toughest places to play in the league with their rowdy and devoted fans so the Mavs will have to be firing on all cylinders if they want to steal a second night of a back-to-back road victory against the best team in the Western Conference.
Dallas then heads to Los Angeles to play the Lakers on Sunday. This isn’t your momma’s Lakers, though. Sitting at 16-42 and with the aging Kobe Bryant out, there isn’t much to worry about with this Lakers unit. In a 108-101 loss to the banged up Thunder on Sunday, the Lakers rolled out a starting line-up of Wayne Ellington, Jordan Clarkson, Ryan Kelly, Carlos Boozer, and Robert Sacre. Intimidating right? There should be no problems getting out of L.A. with a blowout win heading into another tough week next week against LeBron and Company.
3/2 vs Pelicans 7:30 pm
3/5 @Trail Blazers 9:30 pm
3/6 @Warriors 9:30 pm
3/8 @Lakers 8:30 pm