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Monday, February 27, 2012
Week ahead: Nine games in 12 days (really)

By Jeff Caplan

Here it comes: Nine in 12.

"We've got 32 left and this stretch right after the break is critical obviously -- nine games in 12 days," Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle told ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM's Galloway & Co. on Friday. "I don't know if that kind of stretch has ever happened. It's happened some this year with teams and this will be the first for this franchise and it's going to be tough, but it's a challenge I'm looking forward to."

Heading into the break Carlisle said he would tell his troops to enjoy the time off and come back ready to roll.

This week starts the much-talked-about nine-in-12 sequence that ends next week with the lone back-to-back-to-back of the season. As for this week, it includes four games in seven nights packed into two home-road back-to-backs.

Here's a look:

Tuesday: vs. New Jersey Nets (10-25), 7:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: FSSW/ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: Welcome back Avery Johnson. Welcome home Deron Williams? The Colony native is high on the Mavs' wish list this summer. And wondering whether Williams will address his pending free agency and his desires is about all the intrigue that the Nets' visit should provide. Now, if the Mavs come out of the break sluggish, they could be dealt an ugly setback coming off Wednesday's home loss to the Lakers. Seven of New Jersey's 10 wins have come on the road, including recent victories at Chicago (without Derrick Rose) and at the Knicks. Still, these guys are 2-8 in their last 10.

Wednesday: at Memphis Grizzlies (19-15), 7 p.m.
TV/Radio: FSSW/ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: This is where things should get interesting. Once upon a time, the Grizzlies couldn't beat the Mavs, never, ever. The tables have turned recently and the young Grizz are a bona fide threat in the West. When (if?) Zach Randolph returns they'll be downright dangerous. The Mavs come into town on the second night of a back-to-back while the Grizzlies will be waiting to resume their season following the All-Star break. They're 13-5 at FedEx Forum and have won seven of 10 overall. None were of landmark quality, but confidence is brimming.

Friday: at New Orleans (8-25), 7 p.m.
TV/Radio: FSSW/ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: The Hornets can jump up and sting, just ask Jeremy Lin. New Orleans went into the break having won four of six games with the victory at Madison Square Garden being the feather in their cap. They don't score much, but they don't give up much either, and the Mavs' big men better keep an eye on Chris Kaman (17.7 ppg, 9.0 rpg last seven games). The Hornets are actually better on the road than at home (3-14), so the Mavs, after a day of rest, need to bear down and make sure they pad their record against a team they should beat.

Saturday: vs. Utah Jazz (15-17), 7:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: FSSW/ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: The wayward Jazz will make their way to Dallas after two home games against Houston and Miami. They face the Mavs the night after playing the Heat. A Utah team that lost 10 of 13 heading into the All-Star break has plummeted out of the playoff mix. The reunion of Devin Harris and Josh Howard just hasn't clicked. With both teams on the second night of a back-to-back and both traveling, this is one in which the Mavs must defend their turf against a spiraling club that is 3-11 on the road.