NEWARK, N.J. -- When the Dallas Mavericks rolled into Detroit last Monday afternoon, the previously hapless Pistons were seeking their first three-game winning streak of the season. And they got it.
Now the Mavs come into New Jersey following a physical beating by the Chicago Bulls on Thursday night and a long travel day Friday fraught with delays and detours. And guess what? The Nets, owners of the Eastern Conference's second-worst record at 12-31 and fresh off the Carmelo Anthony saga, are suddenly after their first three-game winning streak of the season.
Avery Johnson's Nets, led by former Mavs guard Devin Harris -- who ESPN.com Marc Stein reported was of interest to the Mavs had he landed in Denver via the Anthony deal that went belly-up -- dumped the Utah Jazz and on Friday beat those Pistons, who haven't won since defeating Dallas.
"New Jersey," Jason Terry said after the ugly 82-77 loss at Chicago, "is a must-win for us."
The Mavs were 2-7 without Dirk Nowitzki and his return has not sparked an automatic return to their pre-injury level, which illustrates the blow of losing Caron Butler for the season to a knee injury. With Dirk back, Dallas is 1-3 and his shooting struggles have led to debate regarding the health of the right knee he sprained on Dec. 27.
Dallas has dropped five in a row on the road after starting 12-2. After an 89-70 loss at Memphis, Nowitzki declared it "rock bottom." A loss to the woeful Nets would have to rank a notch below.