DALLAS -- Most players will tell you they don't scoreboard watch, and especially so this early in the season. Jason Terry is not one of those players.
"Oh no question," Terry said. "The only scores I’m focused on is San Antonio and they finally lost the other night. I’m definitely looking at all the teams in the West, but the only team we’re trying to catch is them, so I’m always watching."
Remarkably, despite having won 16 of 17 and starting the season with 23 wins in 28 games, the Dallas Mavericks still find themselves looking up at those San Antonio Spurs (26-4). Since they were 7-4, the Mavs have made up just one games in the standings and two in the loss column.
"They’re having a phenomenal year and there’s about three or four teams having a good year to this point," Terry said. "But, the key is can you maintain it? Can you continue to stay focused, and can you get better? A couple of those teams are going to peak out. I’m going to tell you right now it’s not going to be the Mavericks."
The Mavs will try to stay on a roll Monday night as they get back to work after a rare five-day break from games with a tough assignment against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder (21-10). And they'll have to do it with coach Rick Carlisle watching on TV back home recovering from minor arthroscopic knee surgery. Assistant coach Dwane Casey will call the shots.
He's expected back on the sideline for Tuesday night's home game against the Toronto Raptors. Then the Mavs close out the 2010 portion of the schedule with their first home game against the Spurs. San Antonio faces the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday.
It sets up a big week in which, with a little luck, could catapult the Mavs into a virtual division tie -- but a game up in the loss column -- heading into the New Year.
But, first things first, and that means focusing on Oklahoma City and Durant, who scored 44 points in the Thunder's Christmas Day win over Denver Nuggets. After Sunday's brisk practice, just the Mavs' second during their extended holiday break, the players said any fear of losing the supreme edge they've played with is non-issue.
"We'll be focused. We've some days off so we should have some fresh legs and it would be a big win for us," Mavs center Tyson Chandlersaid. "Right now they're [the Thunder] going to be in a rhythm because they had a chance to play [Saturday]. We just have come in and have a good start and try to take them out of that."