Preview: Banged-up Mavs try to extend streak vs. Rockets to conclude road trip
Earl K. Sneed reports from Houston and previews the Dallas Mavericks' Saturday night showdown against the rival Houston Rockets, as the Mavs try to conclude their road trip with an eighth straight win in the Southwest Division series.
Preview: Mavericks (9-10) at Rockets (9-9)
Banged-up Mavs try to extend streak vs. Rockets to conclude road trip
Already playing without 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki (right knee surgery) through the first 19 games of the season, the Mavericks (9-10) were further handicapped Thursday night in Phoenix, when four-time All-Star Shawn Marion (strained right groin) and center Chris Kaman (sprained left ankle) both went down with injuries. And although neither injury is believed to be serious, both Marion and Kaman are listed as day-to-day as the Mavs try to finish off their three-game road trip with a win in the first of four meetings this season against the Rockets.
If both Marion and Kaman are unable to give it a go, however, the Mavericks need only to look back to their last game to see the successful formula needed to win without two of their top contributors, after claiming a hard-fought 97-94 win over the Suns Thursday night to end a three-game road losing skid. And after bouncing back from a 112-90 defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers the night prior, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle will once again expect for his team to display a collective will in order to conclude the road trip on a high note.
“We played one of our strongest-willed games of the year,” Carlisle said of the victory. “Difficult situation losing time coming off the back-to-back and a rough one (Wednesday night), but everybody really played with a lot of heart and a lot of guts. It was really a war of attrition out there with the injuries and all the stuff going on, but everybody hung in and we found a way. And it’s a huge win for us.”
“I win is a win for us right now,” eight-time All-Star Vince Carter added. “I mean, it doesn’t really matter how pretty or ugly it may be, we needed it and we needed to bounce back after an ugly loss. I was just glad to see everybody fight and play through it. … For us to respond like that and for guys to take advantage of their opportunity, we’re going to be just fine.”
One player that took advantage of the opportunity presented to him was backup big man Brandan Wright, who stepped in and tallied up a season-high 16 points while finishing the game with Kaman sidelined. And if the 7-footer remains out of the lineup, you can bet that Wright will again be ready should Carlisle call his number.
“I felt a little rusty in the beginning, but as I played more and more I started feeling real good,” Wright said as he tries to work his way back into Carlisle’s rotation. “I started feeling like my old self again and then guys go down and coach rolled with me all the way till the end, so I had to step up.”
“[Wright] was going to get the first shot of those bigs on the bench and he responded tremendously well,” Carlisle added. “And it was difficult for him, because he had to play about a 15-minute straight stretch to end the game, which is difficult to do.”
Wright will try to replicate his performance last season in the Mavs’ lone trip to Houston, when the athletic big man scored 14 points, grabbed six rebounds and swatted a career-high seven blocks in a 101-99 overtime victory on March 24. Meanwhile, the Mavs will face the Rockets (9-9) for the first time since Houston pulled off the Oct. 28 trade with Oklahoma City to land reigning Sixth Man of the Year James Harden.
And with Harden now the main threat in Houston, ranking fifth in the league in scoring — three spots ahead of Mavs guard O.J. Mayo (19.8 ppg) — and putting up 23.9 points a game, the Mavericks figure to have their hands full Saturday night at the Toyota Center.
Note: The Mavs will conclude their road trip Saturday night in Houston against the Southwest Division rival Rockets. It is the first of four meetings between the two teams this season. The game will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest at 7 p.m. CT.