Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Dallas Mavericks [Print without images]

Monday, December 10, 2012
Week ahead: Two should-be gimmes, two tough foes

By Tim MacMahon

A quick look at the Mavs schedule this week, which features a quick stop at home before heading out on the road for another three-game trip:

Sacramento Kings (7:30 p.m. Monday, American Airlines Center): The 7-12 Kings hadn’t won on the road this season until a Saturday night rout of the Trail Blazers. Center DeMarcus Cousins leads the Kings with 16.8 points and 10.1 rebounds per game, but he’s shooting only 42.4 percent from the floor. Point guard Tyreke Evans averages 15.5 points, but his limitations as a distributor (3.7 assists) are a problem for a team that ranks 24th in offensive efficiency.

Boston Celtics (7 p.m. Wednesday, TD Garden): This will be the first time Jason Terry faces the Mavs since his departure from Dallas, but his backcourt partner is a much bigger concern. A strong argument can be made that Rajon Rondo is the NBA’s premier point guard. He’s leading the league by a long shot in assists (12.8) while putting up 13.0 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game. Even at their advanced ages, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are capable of being key pieces on a championship contender.

Toronto Raptors (6 p.m. Friday, Air Canada Centre): All due respect to Dwane Casey, the defensive architect of the Mavs’ title team, but his 4-16 Raptors rank among the NBA’s worst teams. Their futility on defense (28th in defensive efficiency) must be especially frustrating to Casey. O.J. Mayo and Chris Kaman each scored 22 points in the Mavs’ win over the Raptors earlier this season.

Minnesota Timberwolves (7 p.m. Saturday, Target Center): The 9-9 Timberwolves didn’t need Kevin Love to beat the Mavs in Dallas last month. Minnesota center Nikola Pekovic had 20 points in 28 minutes during that game. Love has averaged 21.2 points and 14.2 rebounds in nine games since recovering from a broken hand, although he’s shooting just 38.2 percent from the floor. The primary reason Minnesota is competitive is because the Timberwolves rank third in the league in defensive efficiency.