Feb 7, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks shooting guard Monta Ellis (11) brings the ball up court during the second half against the Utah Jazz at American Airlines Center. Ellis leads his team with 21 points. The Mavericks defeated the Jazz 103-81. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Mavericks: Challenges In The Week Ahead

The Dallas Mavericks enter week 19 with a solid record of 36-25, but they are in the midst of a two-game losing streak at the hands of the Chicago Bulls and the San Antonio Spurs. Dallas opened the week on Monday, Feb. 24th with a showdown at Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks.

Dirk Nowitzki has played remarkably well at the Garden throughout his career and this game would be no exception. With the game tied and only a few seconds remaining, Nowitzki shot and connected on a game-winning jumper as the clock expired. The Mavericks survived a furious Knicks comeback attempt and held on for the 110-108 victory.

The Mavericks returned home and easily defeated a short-handed Pelicans team by a score of 108-89 on Wednesday, Feb. 26. The Pelicans stayed within striking distance until forward Anthony Davis left with a sprained shoulder. Davis did not return in the second half and the Pelicans chances at a comeback were next to nothing without their star forward.

Dallas has succeeded in defeating the weaker teams on their schedule during the last month. The stretch of playing sub .500 teams ended when the Chicago Bulls visited the American Airlines Center on Friday, Feb. 28.  The Mavericks scored 32 first-quarter points and it looked like they had found a weakness in the vaunted Bulls defense. The Bulls continued to play their brand of hard-nosed basketball and the Mavericks would only score 69 points during the games remaining three quarters. The Bulls went on to defeat Dallas on their home court, 100-91.

The Mavericks ended the week hoping to defeat the San Antonio Spurs for the first time in the 2013-14 season. The Spurs welcomed back point guard Tony Parker, who had missed six games with a variety of minor injuries. The rejuvenated Parker scored 22 points and dished out seven assists for the Spurs. Dallas kept the game close throughout the first half and they were down 48-47 at halftime, but San Antonio began to pull away in the 3rd quarter.

The Spurs entered the fourth quarter with an eight point lead and the Mavericks were never able to sustain enough a run to make it a close game. The Mavericks found ways to score against the Spurs in the fourth quarter, but they could not get the crucial stops necessary to get back in the game. The Spurs have tilted what was once a back and forth rivalry, having won eight consecutive games against the Mavericks.

Dallas will enjoy a few days off after week that saw them play four times. The Mavericks road victories against the Memphis Grizzlies and Indiana Pacers prior to the All-Star break provided optimism that the Mavericks could win against the best teams in the NBA. Back-to-back losses to the Bulls and Spurs indicate there is still a definitive gap between Dallas and the top teams in the league.

The Mavericks will not have to wait long to prove themselves once again as week 19 presents them with two massive challenges on their home court. Dallas enters the week as the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. The Phoenix Suns, Golden State Warriors and Dallas Mavericks continue to play musical chairs with the No. 6-8 spots in the Western Conference.

Wednesday, March 5 at Denver Nuggets

The Mavericks begin the week with a road game against the 25-33 Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets 2013-14 season is quickly becoming one they would rather forget. The Nuggets would still be a dangerous team if they had at least a few of their top players, but they are essentially starting their second unit at this point. The Nuggets are missing point guards Ty Lawson and Nate Robinson, center JaVale McGee and forward Danilo Gallinari.

No team could be expected to contend without their top three or four players and the Nuggets are no exception. The Nuggets injuries have sent them into a second-half spiral. The Nuggets enter the week having lost 10 of 11 games and they have dropped their last five by an average of 17 points per game.

Friday, March 7 vs. Portland Trail Blazers

The Mavericks will welcome the Portland Trail Blazers to the American Airlines for the second time this season. The Trail Blazers delivered a sound beating to the Mavericks in Dallas on Jan. 18, Portland controlled the game from the opening tip to the ending buzzer and won easily, 127-111. Dallas had defeated the Trail Blazers 108-106 at the Moda Center on Dec. 7 and the Trail Blazers came into Dallas with that loss fresh on their mind.

Portland recently hit a rough spot in early February as they dropped four of five games at one point. It is worth noting that all four losses were against teams with championship aspirations and the Trail Blazers have since responded, winning five in a row as they enter week 19.

Portland has a versatile lineup capable of producing multiple mismatches on the court. LaMarcus Aldridge remains one of the best power forwards in the post and young superstar Damian Lillard has the ability to score with the ball or use his playmaking ability to create offense for others. Portland enters the week with a record of 41-18.

Sunday, March 9 vs. Indiana Pacers

The Mavericks most impressive win of the 2013-14 was a hard fought 81-73 win at Indiana vs. the Pacers on Feb. 12. Dallas went head on with one of the most physical teams in the NBA and left Bankers Life Fieldhouse with a victory. This will be something the Pacers surely remember as they face the Mavericks at the American Airlines Center.

The Pacers have the NBA’s best record at 46-13 and they have recently added another weapon in guard/forward Evan Turner. Turner and forward Lavoy Allen were acquired in a package from the Philadelphia 76ers for forward Danny Granger and a 2015 second-round pick.

Like the Trail Blazers, the Pacers enter the week on a hot streak. The Pacers have won four straight and they should continue to improve as Turner acclimates to his new surroundings.

 

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