Week ahead: Can Mavs keep wins coming?
A look at their four foes:
Minnesota Timberwolves (7:30 p.m. Monday, American Airlines Center): The Timberwolves are 4-9 since their Dec. 15 overtime win over the Mavs. They’ve had an especially tough time since star power forward Kevin Love broke his right hand for the second time this season, losing four of their last five games. Their last three losses have come by double digits, including a 106-88 whuppin’ Sunday night at the hands of the Spurs. Electrifying point guard Ricky Rubio is really struggling, having dealt with back problems after returning from a torn ACL, and is shooting only 18.2 percent from the floor. Center Nikola Pekovic (16.3 ppg, 8.5 rpg) presents the biggest threat to the Mavs, having averaged 20.5 points in the Timberwolves’ two wins over Dallas this season.
Houston Rockets (7:00 p.m. Wednesday, American Airlines Center): The Rockets (21-17) have hit a rut, losing three in a row, and they’ll face the Clippers at home 24 hours before playing the Mavs. Houston still leads the league in scoring (105.4 points per game). They have five players averaging in double figures, led by James Harden’s 26.5 points per game. The Harden-O.J. Mayo rematch ought to be worth the price of admission. Mayo lit the Rockets up for a career-high-matching 40 points when the Mavs won in Houston despite 39 from Harden earlier this season.
Oklahoma City Thunder (8:30 p.m. Friday, American Airlines Center): The Thunder have the NBA’s best record (29-8) and rank second in the league in scoring (105.2 points per game) despite dealing Harden in October. Kevin Durant might be the MVP frontrunner, averaging 28.6 points per game while posting career highs in assists (4.3), steals (1.5), blocks (1.3) and field goal percentage (52.5). Russell Westbrook (21.8 ppg, 8.5 apg) is one of the two players to rank among the league’s top 10 in scoring and assists.
Orlando Magic (5:00 p.m. Sunday, Amway Center): The Mavs ought to be able to relate to the Magic. Both teams were surprisingly competitive to start the season after losing their superstar, with Dwight Howard’s absence from Orlando a permanent deal, before enduring a miserable stretch. The Magic snapped a 10-game losing streak Saturday night, against the Los Angeles Clippers, of all teams. Shooting guard Arron Afflalo (team-high 17.8 points per game) dropped 30 in that stunner. Orlando did get a legitimate big man in the three-team deal that sent Howard to the Lakers. Nikola Vucevic is averaging 11.4 points and 11.0 rebounds per game this season (16.0 points and 16.8 rebounds in the last six games).
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