It’s a new week for the Dallas Mavericks. It also might be the toughest yet.
Coming off back-to-back impressive home wins over Portland and Indiana, the Mavs’ daunting March continues with three road games this week, along with the first of two back-to-backs.
In terms of seeing where Dallas ranks among the top teams, the March 16 game against the Oklahoma City Thunder is the one to circle. The Thunder have struggled since the return of Russell Westbrook, and that stretch includes an unthinkable road loss to the hapless Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday behind a career-high 42 points by Jodie Meeks.
Getting a win against Oklahoma City, a team that’s torched the Mavs since they beat the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals two years ago, is obviously huge.
That game is more a short-term win rather than long term, though.
The meaning behind this game is self-explanatory: The Mavs are seventh in the Western Conference, the Warriors are sixth and sitting two games ahead of Dallas in the win column.
Tuesday’s game rings significance also because the Mavs know they’re very capable of going into the haunted house that is Oracle Arena and giving the Warriors a run for their money. The Dec. 11 meeting in Oakland came down to a game-winning shot by Stephen Curry, completing an 18-point comeback to beat the Mavs.
Dallas has proven in the last month that it’s a better team than the one that lost to Golden State in December. It’s tough to think of a two-game stretch, at any point this year, where the Mavs played as well as they did in the wins against Portland and Indiana. Albeit, the Mavs almost lost a game after having a 30-point lead (by the way, I still don’t know how Dallas won), but sweeping the Pacers even though they’re struggling is still a plus.
But here come the Warriors, winners of nine of their last 11 since the All-Star break, and have beaten good teams along the way. Wins against Houston, Indiana and Phoenix have put Golden State right back in the conversation as a threat in the West.
Curry has cooled off a bit scoring wise since the All-Star break. The 3-point specialist who’s averaging almost 24 points and nine
assists has dropped to a shade over 18.5 points over the last 11 games. Since his triple-double against the Knicks in Madison Square Garden on Feb. 28, Curry has scored under 20 points in four out of five games in March and shooting only 31 percent from 3-point range.
If you’re thinking this is the part where I say Curry could struggle against Dallas on Tuesday, I hate to be the bearer of bad news. Curry averaged 31 points in the first two meetings against Dallas and made 12-of-21 from 3-point range combined.
The other half of the Super Splash Bros., meanwhile, has played horrible against Dallas this season. Thompson shot a dismal 3-of-14 back on Dec. 11, and only 5-of-16 in the Mavs’ win on Nov. 27. Good news for Thompson is he’s coming off a 9-of-15 performance against the Suns on Sunday.
Golden State, though, has a weapon that the Mavs haven’t seen this year: Andre Iguodala. The big-time summer acquisition for the Warriors played in neither of the two games against Dallas while recovering from a strained hamstring. Dirk Nowitzki should expect to see a healthy dose of Iggy on Tuesday.
Speaking of The Big German, it’s got to be good knowing that he had to do little-to-nothing in the last two wins. He took the fourth quarter off against Portland and let Devin Harris handle those closing duties, and he shot 3-of-14 against the tough Pacers defense.
Nowitzki scored 22 and 21 points against the Warriors respectively in both meetings and has shot 50 percent or better both times.
Also, Dirk needs only 12 points to pass Boston great John Havlicek for 12th place on the all-time scoring list. He’ll more than likely do that.
In the long term, this game is the most important in terms of seeding. Both teams will see each other one more time in April towards the end of the season, but if the Mavs can find a way to beat a hot Golden State team at Oracle, Dallas takes a 2-1 season series lead and is only a game back of the Warriors heading to Salt Lake City to conclude the back-to-back.
More than likely, we’re not going to see a Mavs/Warriors playoff rematch any time soon. But these two will have a fun battle going down the stretch for the sixth, or who knows, maybe the fifth spot if both catch fire.
A big week for the Mavs begins in a big way; against a team that they need to beat.
You can find Danny Webster on Twitter @DannyWebster21.