The Dallas Mavericks will be facing one of the toughest types of stretches that occur during the NBA regular season this week. In a span of five nights, the Mavericks will face four different opponents, including three of those games on the road.
The stretch starts with the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday in Dallas. The Lakers are still without Kobe Bryant, who is recovering from Achilles surgery. Despite missing their best player, the team has managed to stay afloat, though they haven’t done much to indicate what kind of team they’ll be this season. They aren’t expected to be very good this year, and the Mavericks match up well against them on paper.
If the Mavericks take care of business, they may be able to take a commanding lead early and want rest some of their players late in the game. When that game is over the Mavericks will fly just a bit north to face the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday. The Thunder just got Russell Westbrook back from injury, and the Mavericks really have no answer right now for quick guards like him. Shawn Marion is one of the better defenders in the league at slowing down Kevin Durant, but it will take a special offensive showing from the Mavericks to keep pace with what Westbrook is going to be able to do.
After having Thursday off, the Mavericks will kick off the weekend with a much easier back-to-back at the Minnesota Timberwolves and at the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday and Saturday. The Timberwolves are 3-0 right now, including a dominant win over the Thunder. They are very hot right now, and whether they can keep that level of play up for the rest of the season or not, they’ll likely still be hot coming into play against Dallas.
The Bucks are going to be bottom feeders in the already bad Eastern Conference, so they are a team that the Mavericks need to beat. There are extra storylines in this one because Monta Ellis and Samuel Dalembert came from the Bucks to join the Mavericks this season, and O.J. Mayo made the opposite journey, leaving the Mavericks to join the Bucks. Caron Butler also plays for the Bucks now, and he was on the Mavericks’ Championship team. Still, they shouldn’t provide much of a threat if the Mavericks are going to be as good as they’re hoping.
Ideally, the Mavericks will take care of business against the inferior Lakers and Bucks and maybe even take one from the two tougher opponents. Looking for a sweep this week is almost certainly asking too much, but if the Mavericks could win three of the four they’d be in a great position early in the season sitting at 5-2.
While these games may not prove to matter as much by the time the end of the year rolls around, nothing builds chemistry faster than winning. And for a team that has nine new faces, chemistry needs to be built as quickly as possible. Expect the Mavericks to go 2-2 over this week with a real chance to go 3-1.