The Mavericks approach week nine looking to forget another disappointing week of basketball in Dallas. The Mavericks had three games on their schedule in week eight and they managed a victory in only one of those games. Week eight began with Dallas hosting a beat up and tired Memphis Grizzlies team on Wednesday, Dec. 18. To the Mavericks credit, they did what they were expected to do and came away with a convincing 105-91 home win.
The Mavericks welcomed in the Toronto Raptors for their second game of the week on Friday, Dec. 20. The matchup against the Raptors was an important swing game for the Mavericks as they would have to play at Phoenix the following night. Dallas came out of the gates hot against the Raptors, scoring 33 points in the first quarter. The Mavericks led by as many as 19 points in the first half and all signs pointed to another Dallas home win.
The Raptors may have been down, but they refused to let Dallas have the win without a struggle. All five Toronto starters scored in double figures and the Raptors erased the Mavericks 19 point lead in the second half. This game would come down to a small number of critical, late-game situations and Dallas failed to deliver. Dirk Nowitzki had a chance to put the game away in regulation with a last-second fade away but the shot rimmed out and the Raptors forced overtime.
After a back-and-forth overtime period, the Mavericks had another opportunity to win the game at the end of overtime but Monta Ellis‘ running jumper fell short. Dallas was clearly disappointed and upset after the game and they should have been, to contend in the Western Conference it is imperative that the Mavericks defeat teams like the Toronto Raptors at home.
Dallas travelled to face Phoenix the following night and they saw first-hand how dangerous the surprising Phoenix Suns are. The Suns connected on 15 3-point shots on their way to a 123-108 win. The Mavericks did some good things on offense, but they had no answer for the Suns dynamic offensive attack.
Dallas once again has three games on their schedule in week nine. The Mavericks schedule becomes more difficult in late December and early January and their level of play must rise to the occasion.
Monday, Dec. 23 at Houston Rockets
The Mavericks will face the Houston Rockets for the third time in the 2013-14 season on Monday, Dec 23rd. Both teams protected their home court in their previous matchups. The Rockets are dealing with injuries to a two key players, James Harden and Jeremy Lin. Harden is dealing with a severely sprained ankle and Lin is suffering from back spasms. Houston has won only four of their last eight games but they still boast an impressive 18-10 record.
The Rockets have scored at will against the Mavericks in their first two contests, averaging 116.5 points per game. Dallas could catch a break if James Harden and Jeremy Lin are unable to play, but they must shore up their defense in Houston regardless of what Rockets players are able to take the court.
Thursday, Dec. 26 vs. San Antonio Spurs
For yet another season, the San Antonio Spurs continue to battle for the top spot in the Western Conference. The Spurs are currently sitting at 21-6, good for the No. 3 spot in the Western Conference. Once again the Spurs are led by familiar faces Tony Parker and Tim Duncan. While Parker and Duncan may be the Spurs leading scorers, small forward Kawhi Leonard’s importance the Spurs team continues to grow.
Leonard is averaging 12.3 points per game and is shooting the ball over 50 percent for the first time in his three-year career. Leonard has added a much needed element of youth and athleticism to the Spurs veteran roster. The Mavericks will face the Spurs coming off of two days rest while San Antonio must deal with the Rockets the night before their matchup against Dallas.
Saturday, Dec. 28 at Chicago Bulls
Dallas heads to Chicago for the first game in a three-game road trip. The 10-16 Bulls have been ravaged once again this season by injuries. Star point guard Derrick Rose underwent surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his right knee and is expected to miss the remainder of the season.
In addition to the unfortunate Rose injury, talent second-year small forward Jimmy Butler, veteran shooting guard Luol Deng and point guard Kirk Hinrich have all missed recent games with injuries. Butler is dealing with a sprained right ankle, Hinrich is dealing with a back injury and Deng is battling an ongoing Achilles injury. No team has had their season derailed due to injuries like the Chicago Bulls.
The Mavericks have two tough games against their in-state rivals before they face a struggling Bulls team. For week nine to be successful, Dallas must find a way to split the two games against the Spurs and Rockets, and then successfully take advantage of a short-handed Bulls team.