Earl K. Sneed previews the Mavericks' second trip into Sacramento, as the team tries to dethrone the Kings once again while looking to extend its winning streak to 10.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Once again the Dallas Mavericks are the NBA’s hottest team. And again they have a chance to extend a winning streak to double figures with a win Wednesday night over the Sacramento Kings.
Beginning a three-game road trip, the Mavericks travel to Sacramento hoping for a second win this season in ARCO Arena, after sneaking out of the Kings’ backyard with a 105-103 win back on Dec. 4. The Mavericks (36-15) will also take the court in search of a 10th straight victory overall, after surviving the Cleveland Cavaliers in Dallas on Monday night to edge out a 99-96 win, extending their second-longest winning streak of the season to nine.
But looking to continue to march towards the 12-game win streak the team reeled off from November into mid-December, the Mavs admit they are hoping to play better than their showing against a Cavaliers squad that has now lost an NBA-record 25 straight outings.
“[The energy level] was inconsistent,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle explained after Monday night’s game. “There were times when we were real good, but our energy to start the game was not where it needed to be. We had too many variations on it … That’s disappointing, but I’m glad we won. We took some steps back (Monday night).”
Fortunately for the Mavericks’ sake, things appear to be looking up on the health front.
Mid-season acquisition Peja Stojakovic made his Dallas debut in the win over the Cavaliers, jumping into the starting lineup at small forward and returning from a minor knee injury that had kept him sidelined since Nov. 26.
The career 40-percent 3-pointer shooter admits that he was a bit rusty, however, hitting just 3-of-9 from the floor and 1-of-6 from behind the arc in his first game. But the 6-foot-10 sharpshooter doesn’t see that becoming a trend as he fully integrates himself into the Mavericks’ core.
“Just being out there with the guys was great,” Stojakovic said. “Playing with those guys, they make it easy. It wasn’t sets, it was just playing basketball. But some nights are good nights and some nights you just want to forget about.”
Stojakovic had many nights he’d like to remember, however, during his seven-year run with the Kings.
Helping to lead the charge on a perennial playoff team, Stojakovic made his name as a deadly shooting assassin in a Kings’ uniform. But he was traded from Sacramento in the 2005-06 season to Indiana, where he joined forces with Carlisle for half the year.
And according to Stojakovic, his return to Sacramento Wednesday night is just an opportunity to rekindle his shooting touch in a familiar venue.
“I always kept those good memories in the back of my mind, but you’ve got to move on,” the 12-year veteran said of facing his former team.
Meanwhile, the Mavericks hope to also see the return of second-year guard Roddy Beaubois, after he went through his first full practice since fracturing his left foot this offseason.
Beaubois did not travel with the team to Sacramento, staying back in Dallas to continue to work on his conditioning. He could join the team in Houston after the Mavs journey to Denver Thursday night for the second half of a back-to-back.
“It was a very big step. It’s been a very long time,” Beaubois said after completing his first practice session Tuesday. “And even though it was a short practice, it was good to get out there. It was good to run.
“Definitely soon,” he added in regard to a return date. “I can’t tell you exactly when, because it was my first practice. But right now I feel good. But I need at least a good week of practices and five-on-five.”
But the Mavericks believe they’re covered until the budding star returns, utilizing their depth and bench play to get a win Monday night. Behind a 60-11 margin in bench scoring, the Mavericks made up for a sluggish night by their starters en route to the win.
And sixth man Jason Terry, who finished with a team-high 23 points on 7-of-16 shooting, says that the bench will be ready once again should it be called upon to help take down a Kings (12-36) team with the second-worst record in the Western Conference.
“Our bench has been consistent now for about a month and a half, and that’s what we need going forward. Early on, we struggled trying to find our identity with who we are and our roles. But now we’re comfortable in our roles and everybody pretty much knows when they’re going in and what’s expected. And it’s working out for us,” Terry said.
The Mavericks hope the bench play continues to work out for them Wednesday night as they bid for a 10th straight victory, while also trying to tack on another loss to Sacramento’s three-game skid.
Note: The Mavericks begin a three-game road trip Wednesday night in Sacramento against the Kings. The game will tip off at 7 p.m. CT, airing locally on TXA 21.
The Mavs return to the American Airlines Center Wednesday, Feb. 16, to host the very same Kings. That matchup will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest. Great seats are still available and tickets 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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