Make or break? “A great opportunity” comes to Mavs
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The Mavericks departed later than usual on Thursday afternoon, then coaches, players and staff members could squeeze in Thanksgiving time with their families before beginning what could be a pivotal three-game road trip.
How pivotal is it? Recall the last season of Mavericks. After a dreadful 2-7 start, they got hot, improved to 15-11 and had won 5 of their last 6 games entering a Dec. 13 game at Phoenix. The 99-89 thumping that Dallas received from the Suns did trigger a six-game losing streak, which dropped the Mavericks to below .500. Then it turned out.
Guess what? This season’s Mavericks (11-6) have won 5 of their last 6 games and they return to Talking Stick Resort Arena on Friday night where they have lost 4 straight to, but let’s face it, bad Phoenix teams that finished last in the West each of the last 2 seasons. Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle calls this road trip as “A great opportunity”, which also includes games on Sunday against the Lakers (16-2) and next game on Tuesday against New Orleans (6-12).
Despite the 25-game suspension of Deandre Ayton for violating the NBA’s anti-drug policy, this season’s Suns (8-9) have been no bargain under first-year coach Monty Williams, who along with Carlisle has been mentioned among early NBA Coach of the Year candidates. Carlisle said that the team was a lot different, and cited in particular the addition of Ricky Rubio, the first true point guard Phoenix has had in several years. “Style is different. A lot more toughness. Hard-playing guys. They’re hungry.”
The Mavericks are coming off Tuesday’s 15-point home loss to the Clippers. They were outrebounded by 10 and surrendered 17 offensive rebounds, 13 of them in the first half. The Clippers game with its 14-point win at Houston began a difficult gauntlet for Dallas to close out 2019.
From now to the New Year’s Eve game at Oklahoma City, the Mavericks will play 16 times, in which ten of those games are on the road, including the Dec. 12 game against Detroit in Mexico City. Meanwhile, eight of the 16 opponents are over .500, including the Lakers (twice) and the current top five teams in the East: Milwaukee, Boston, Toronto, Miami and Philadelphia, and up-and-coming opponents such as Phoenix and Minnesota.
Carlisle said that “It’s a league that, overall, is making progress, we’ve got to keep pace with that.”