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Monday, December 3, 2012
Week ahead: Mavs on the road again

By Tim MacMahon

DALLAS -- At least the Mavericks will be well rested to begin this road trip. They have three days off before playing three games in four nights.

A quick look at the Mavs’ opponents this week:

Los Angeles Clippers (9:30 p.m. Wednesday, Staples Center): Chris Paul probably won’t have a warm welcome for Derek Fisher’s return to L.A. Paul is playing at an All-NBA level again, averaging 16.4 points, 9.3 assists and 2.7 steals for the 10-6 Clippers. Blake Griffin’s numbers (16.7 ppg, 8.7 rpg) are down significantly this season, but the pogo-stick power forward still presents a major matchup problem for a Mavs team that lacks athleticism in the frontcourt. Guard Chauncey Billups provides the Clippers a heavy dose of veteran savvy. He hasn’t put up pretty numbers since his return from a torn Achilles, but the Clippers snapped a four-game losing streak during his season debut and are 2-0 with Billups in the lineup.

Phoenix Suns (9:30 p.m. Thursday, U.S. Airways Center): The Suns gave their fans a money-back guarantee for this game: Have fun or get a full refund. Phoenix sure hasn’t been much fun to watch during the long road trip they’ll wrap up Tuesday in Memphis, losing four of five games, including a 40-point blowout in Detroit. The 7-11 Suns are led by dangerous point guard Goran Dragic, who is averaging 15.6 points and 6.6 assists in his first season of a four-year, $34 million deal.

Houston Rockets (7 p.m. Saturday, Toyota Center): The blockbuster trade for James Harden made the Rockets a real threat to take one of the last playoff spots in the Western Conference. Harden has been every bit as good as the 8-8 Rockets hoped, averaging 24.1 points and 5.8 assists per game. Point guard Jeremy Lin, on the other hand, has been inconsistent, averaging 10.9 points and shooting less than 40 percent from the floor. Houston has won five of its last six home games, with a three-point loss to the Heat the lone exception.