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Week ahead: Road work ahead

1/16/2012

The Dallas Mavericks just finished off a rare sweep of four games in five nights and they got stronger at the end, winning the final two games by a combined 65 points.

Starting tonight, the Mavs kick off four games in six nights, but the competition stiffens. Entering last week's games, the Mavs' four opponents had a combined 11 wins. This week's foes, all Western Conference opponents, have 26 with just one sub-.500 club on the docket -- and all four games are on the road.

Here's a look at the week ahead:

Tonight: at Los Angeles Lakers (9-5), 9:30 p.m.

TV/Radio: TNT/103.3 FM ESPN; 1270 AM (Spanish)

What to watch: Obviously all eyes are on former Laker and struggling Mavs forward Lamar Odom, who makes his return to L.A. for the first time since being traded. There's of plenty of new faces on both of these teams, but the Mavs will certainly recognize Kobe Bryant, who enters the game with four consecutive 40-point performances. It was just over six years ago -- and Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry will never forget it -- that Kobe went off for 62 at Staples Center against Dallas.

Wednesday: at Los Angeles Clippers (6-3), 9:30 p.m.

TV/Radio: ESPN, FSSW/103.3 FM ESPN; 1270 AM (Spanish)

What to watch: This first matchup with the re-tooled Clips might or might not be something to behold. For one, Chris Paul tweaked a hamstring over the weekend and his status is uncertain. And two, this will be the third game in three nights as L.A. plays New Jersey at home tonight, then flies to Utah to play the streaking Jazz on Tuesday and then come back home to play host to Dallas. So, who knows what L.A.will have left in the tank, especially if Paul is unable to play and considering Mo Williams is dinged and Eric Bledsoe is out.

Thursday: at Utah Jazz (8-4), 9:30 p.m.

TV/Radio: TNT/103.3 FM ESPN; 1270 AM (Spanish)

What to watch: After a 1-3 start,the Jazz are 7-1 and it takes full concentration to grind it out for a full 48 minutes to beat this club, especially on their home floor where they're 6-1 and where Dirk Nowitzki and friends have notoriously had a rough go of things. It won't help that Dallas will be playing the second night of a back-to-back while the Jazz will have had the previous day off after playing at home Tuesday night. Big Al Jefferson is leading the way, averaging 18.8 points and 8.6 rebounds. Former Mavs forward Josh Howard is coming off the bench and contributing 10.7 points and 2.9 rebounds, while former Mavs point guard Devin Harris is bringing 8.1 points and 4.6 assists a game.

Saturday: at New Orleans Hornets (3-9), 7 p.m.

TV/Radio: FSSW/103.3 FM ESPN; 1270 AM (Spanish)

What to watch: After a needed day off, the Mavs should be in good shape to close out the longest road trip of the season to this point with a victory. The Hornets are 1-5 at home and just plain struggling, averaging just 87.5 points a game. Trevor Ariza, Eric Gordon and Xavier Henry continue to be plagued by injuries, a big reason why NOLA has lost eight of nine entering the week.