Riding an emotional wave after a come-from-behind win in Boston, the Mavericks will look to continue their seven-game winning streak in Charlotte while also hoping to remain unbeaten against the Bobcats. Earl K. Sneed previews the matchup.
CHARLOTTE — Much has changed for both the Dallas Mavericks and Charlotte Bobcats since meeting up in the first game of the season.
After handing the Bobcats (21-28) a season-opening 101-86 loss at the American Airlines Center on Oct. 27 and running their perfect record against the young franchise to 13-0, the Mavericks sprinted to a 24-5 start, before injuries cooled the team down. The Mavericks (34-15) have now rebounded nicely from an injury-induced slump, entering their second matchup with the Bobcats riding a seven-game winning streak and snatching eight victories in their last nine outings overall since ending a season-worst six-game skid.
The outcome has been an ascent back up to the second-best record in the Western Conference.
“It’s starting to look like it did a month ago,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “Now, we’ve got to sustain, and that’s gonna be the challenge for us.”
Meanwhile, the Bobcats no longer feature Larry Brown on the sideline, after Paul Silas stepped into the head coach’s role hoping to lead Charlotte back to the playoffs for a second straight season.
But while the Mavericks have climbed up the standings in the West, the Bobcats have struggled to remain relevant in the Eastern Conference, sitting 14 1/2 games behind Miami in the Southeast Division after a 109-97 home defeat to the Heat on Friday night.
Saturday night, however, the Bobcats will try to forget about the events from 24 hours before, while the Mavericks will be out to build upon their latest win, after point guard Jason Kidd’s game-clinching 3-pointer sent his squad galloping out of TD Garden with a 101-97 road victory over the Boston Celtics.
And with two successful legs of a three-game road trip already under their belt, the Mavs will seek more, trying to sweep the season series with Charlotte. Although it’s a feat the Mavericks admit won’t be easy.
“Charlotte has had a rebirth since Paul (Silas) took over. And it’s gonna be tough,” Carlisle said.
“This is a tough one for us, especially since we’ve been playing good basketball,” ex-Bobcat Tyson Chandler echoed. “We want to continue our streak. It’s always tough when you play against those Eastern Conference teams, because it’s such a different style of basketball.”
But regardless of who their opponent is on a given night, the Mavericks believe they’ve figured out the key to their success: Trust.
Simply trusting in each other, the Mavs have rekindled their early-season success, using a balanced offensive attack to do so.
In Friday night’s win over the Celtics, six Mavericks scored in double figures, thanks in large part to the team’s emphasis on making the extra pass. That philosophy was on full display in the final seconds, when both sixth man Jason Terry and leading scorer Dirk Nowitzki shard the ball with the game on the line, ending with No. 41 finding Kidd for a 3-pointer with just 2.5 seconds remaining to secure the Mavericks’ seventh consecutive win.
“Dirk was nice enough and he trusted his teammates down the stretch to make a play. And I got lucky and it went in,” Kidd said after making the clutch shot.
“Offensively, we’re trusting each other,” Terry added. “The pass Dirk made at the end, it was all about trust. And when you trust your teammates like that, good things happen … Guys are making shots, and even when we miss shots, it’s all predicated on our assists and we’ve been doing an outstanding job.”
And with his team looking to build upon that trust, Chandler offers a warning to his former squad and any other future opponent hoping to defend the Mavericks in a close game.
“You’ve got so many players that have been through it on this team and have been in that moment that, at any time, any one of those guys could step up,” Chandler said. “JET [Terry] has hit game-winners. Dirk has hit game-winners. Jason Kidd has hit game-winners. We’ve got options to go to down the stretch.”
With all of those options available for action Saturday night, the Mavericks will try to wrap up their road trip without a blemish, hoping to also string together an eighth straight victory overall to move to 14-0 all-time against the Bobcats in the process.
Note: The Mavericks conclude their road trip in Charlotte against the Bobcats, in a game that will tip off at 6 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest.
The team returns to Dallas to host the Cleveland Cavaliers next Monday night, Feb. 7, at the American Airlines Center. The Mavericks went into Quicken Loans Arena and handed the Cavs a 104-95 loss on their home floor back on Jan. 2. That matchup will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest. Great seats are still available and can be purchased by visiting the American Airlines Center box office, logging on to Mavs.com or by calling 214-747-MAVS (6287).
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