The Mavericks will head to week eight looking to learn and grow from a disappointing week seven. Dallas was entering the seventh week of the season coming off an impressive 108-106 win against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Moda Center on Saturday, Dec. 7. The Mavericks road trip continued on Monday, Dec. 9 at Sacramento against the struggling Kings. Dallas came into the game without the necessary focus it takes to win on the road in the NBA, even against the Kings. Sacramento started the game hot, scoring 34 points in the first quarter alone. Dallas fought back but had no answer for DeMarcus Cousins as the game progressed. Cousins finished the game with 32 points and 19 rebounds and the Kings eventually won 112-97.
Dallas followed up the disappointing effort in Sacramento with a 95-93 loss to the Golden State Warriors two nights later. There is no shame in losing to the Warriors on their home court, but Dallas failed to protect an 18-point lead and folded late in the fourth quarter. We wrote that stopping Stephen Curry would be the key for the Mavericks and they failed to contain the young star in the fourth quarter. Curry had 16 points in the fourth quarter and finished with 33 points, 10 assists and four rebounds.
The Mavericks were fortunate to find the perfect opponent to remedy their disappointing week. The Milwaukee Bucks came into the American Airlines Center with a 5-18 record and were playing on the second night of a back-to-back. Despite missing head coach Rick Carlisle and Dirk Nowitzki with an undisclosed illness, Dallas cruised to a 106-93 win.
The Mavericks enter the week of Dec. 16 with a 14-10 record, good for the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference. The Mavericks frontcourt received a boost on Saturday night with the return of Brandan Wright. Wright scored 19 points and hit 9-of-10 shots in his season debut. Wright missed the first 23 games of the season with a shoulder injury but showed no signs of rust in his return to action.
Wright’s timing is impeccable for a Dallas team still trying to find answers at the center position. Opening night starting center Samuel Dalembert has struggled of late and never left the bench in the Mavericks blowout win against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Wednesday, Dec. 18 vs. Memphis Grizzlies
The Mavericks meet the 10-12 Memphis Grizzlies for the second time in the 2013-14 season. Dallas handled the Grizzlies, 111-99 on Nov. 2 at the American Airlines Center. The Grizzlies team that Dallas will face this time around is not as formidable as the group that Dallas was matched up with earlier in the season. Grizzlies starting center Marc Gasol is still recovering from a sprained MCL and the Grizzlies are struggling without him.
Memphis has lost four of their last five games and they are quickly losing ground in the Western Conference. The Grizzlies play the Los Angeles Lakers at home the night before they depart to Dallas. Memphis will land in Dallas and will have to face a Mavericks team coming off of three days’ rest. The Grizzlies struggles without Marc Gasol and the fact they will face a well-rested team put this game heavily in the Mavericks favor.
Friday, Dec. 20 vs. Toronto Raptors
The Raptors seven-player deal that sent forward Rudy Gay to the Sacramento Kings has garnered immediate results for the only team north of the border. Toronto has won three of four games since the trade and they have improved their ball movement and half-court efficiency in a short amount of time.
The Raptors may enter the week with a 9-13 record but this is not a team Dallas can take lightly. Shooting guard DeMar DeRozan and forward Amir Johnson are playing great basketball and this is team that works hard for their head coach, former Mavericks assistant Dwane Casey.
Saturday, Dec. 21 at Phoenix Suns
The Suns were expected to be one of the worst teams in the Western Conference heading into the 2013-14 season. General manager Ryan McDonough’s preseason trade of starting center Marcin Gortat to the Washington Wizards cemented the notion that the Suns were playing for 2014-15, not 2013-14.
While this may have appeared to be the case on paper, nobody bothered to tell head coach Jeff Hornacek or his young, energetic team. The Suns enter the week with a 13-9 record and they are actually looking down on the Mavericks in the Western Conference. The Suns are led by guards Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic. This will be the second game of a back-to-back for Dallas and it’s imperative that the Mavericks match the Suns energy early.