Earl K. Sneed reports from Phoenix, where the Mavericks will bid for their 13th win in the last 14 games by matching up with a new-look Suns team to conclude play before the All-Star break.
PHOENIX — Thursday night is all about finishing strong for the Dallas Mavericks.
Stepping into the US Airways Center for the first time this season, the Mavericks (39-16) will seek their 13th win in the last 14 games, while also trying to finish off play before the All-Star break in style. But according to point guard Jason Kidd, the Mavericks will be battling more than just the Phoenix Suns when the two teams hit the hardwood for a nationally-televised matchup.
“A lot of times before the break guys start thinking about where they’re going on vacation,” Kidd said. “So, we can’t be distracted on that. We’ve got to finish out.”
In order to do his part, Kidd will try to replicate Wednesday night, when the legendary lead guard exploded with a barrage of 3-pointers for 17 of his game-high 20 points in the third quarter of a 116-100 home win over the Sacramento Kings. Kidd finished the night 7-for-9 from the floor and 6-of-7 from behind the arc, perhaps stealing the headlines away from second-year guard Roddy Beaubois’ season debut.
“He was on fire,” teammate Shawn Marion said of Kidd’s performance. “I was like, ‘Is that thing wet, J-Kidd?’ He kept shooting that thing and it kept going in. So, I was like, ‘Keep shooting that thing, baby.’ He was 6-for-7 from the 3-point line and that’s tough.”
“I just got lucky. Roddy and Dirk [Nowitzki] and those guys found me in my new position, so I just got lucky and made some shots,” Kidd explained.
The new position that Kidd referenced is due to the relinquishing of the ball-handling responsibilities to Beaubois and fellow reserve guard J.J. Barea, making No. 2 a featured spot-up shooter in the Mavericks’ offense instead of the pass-first point guard he’s been throughout his career.
And Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle says that Kidd’s role as a scorer could expand, after Beaubois’ six-month absence due to a fractured left foot ended with a 13-point, six-assist night after playing 21 minutes — coupled with Barea’s 11 points and 10 assists off the bench.
“Jason will probably have fewer assists now if he’s gonna play with Roddy more, because it allows him to play off the ball. Which allows him to be a different kind of playmaker, which is a positive for us,” Carlisle said.
In the win over Sacramento, however, the Mavericks proved that they have plenty of playmakers to choose from with a season-high eight players scoring in double figures while the team dished out 34 assists on the night.
“This team is built on a lot of pieces — a lot of important, valuable pieces,” Carlisle said. “And the reality is most nights we’ll go nine deep, but we have the ability to go 12 deep … I don’t know if I envisioned eight guys in double figures (Wednesday night). But, look, we wanted to win the game.”
“We’re a talented team and we just keep helping each other,” Marion added after scoring 14 points in a reserve role. “And that’s basically what it boils down to, just keep sharing the wealth.”
That balance and unselfish play will once again be what the Mavs will try to utilize when they seek a second win over the Suns, after routing Phoenix with a 106-91 victory in Dallas back on Dec. 17. But the Mavericks will see a different team than the Suns squad they faced off with in December, after the Phoenix front office pulled off an exchange with Orlando that brought back Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus to play alongside two-time MVP Steve Nash.
The Suns (27-26) have gone 7-3 in their last 10 games, providing a formidable roadblock in the Mavericks’ way as they try to head into the mid-season layoff on a positive note. But Marion, a former Sun, says that regardless of Phoenix’s recent roster shakeup and play of late, the final game heading into the break will still come down to the Mavericks’ ability to impose their will, a task that the star reserve adds is essential to getting a win.
“Phoenix, they’re a talented team. They’ve got a lot of weapons on their team,” said Marion. “They’ve changed since the last time we played them with the trades they’ve made. But we’ve got to go out and do what we need to do to get a win. It’s not about them, it’s about us. And we’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing, making the adjustments we have to and playing ball.”
Note: In their final test before the All-Star break, the Mavs will head into Phoenix to face the Suns on Thursday night. The matchup will tip off at 9:30 p.m. CT, airing nationally on TNT.
Stay connected with Dallas Mavericks inside reporter Earl K. Sneed by clicking "like" on his Facebook page or by following him on Twitter. Got a question for EKS? Send your question, along with your first name, last initial, city and state with the subject line "Ask EKS" to firstname.lastname@example.org, and you could be published on Mavsfastbreak.com, the Mavericks' new official blog site.
Individual game tickets are on sale now. Tickets start as low as $2 and can be purchased at the American Airlines Center box office, on Mavs.com or by calling 214-747-MAVS (6287). Get in on the action and be there for all the thrills!
Fans can visit Mavs.com or call 214.747.MAVS for more information and a complete listing of regular-season home games.