As the Dallas Mavericks left the bitter cold of DFW behind Tuesday -- delayed several hours -- for the bitter cold of the Northeast, they can take heart in knowing they're one of the hotter teams going in the Western Conference and darn near the entire league.
Despite a month 0f injury, turmoil and ongoing transition, five consecutive wins -- tied with the Chicago Bulls as the longest current win streak in the league -- have moved the Mavs within one game of the Los Angeles Lakers for second in the West standings.
Now the club begins another grueling stretch in which they play six of their next seven games on the road, and, in the bigger picture, 20 of 30 away from home. Considering the events that started Dec. 27 when Dirk Nowitzki went down with a sprained knee, to New Year's Day when Caron Butler was lost for the season, Dallas hits the road feeling pretty good about itself.
"It wasn’t pretty there for a while, but I think what we talked about was that we’re too talented and just too good," Nowitzki said. "We just got to get healthy and do some of the stuff we were doing in November, December and we’d get back to our winning ways. That was good to see that we got our stuff back and now we've just got to keep going.
"We’re right in the pack of things. Besides San Antonio, they’re really way too far up for anybody, but other than that everything else is right there in the pack."
This three game roadie offers something for everyone. The first stop is tonight at Madison Square Garden to face the rejuvinated, although recently struggling, New York Knicks with Amare Stoudemire. The last time the Mavs played at MSG, they waltzed out with a 50-point win without the services of Jason Kidd. Of course, Stoudemire wasn't there either. And the first Stoudemire vs. Chandler matchup should be fun to watch.
Then it's off to Boston on Friday to face the title contending Celtics, who have gotten the better of this matchup since Kevin Garnett came to Beantown. However, the Mavs took the first game of the series in Dallas in early November, displaying that hustling fourth-quarter defense that defined their 24-5 starts.
On Saturday, the Mavs complete the road trip with a back-to-back at the Charlotte Bobcats. Dallas has won all 13 games against the Bobcats, including six in a row at Charlotte. But, that's not why this game has intrigue. Nor is it because the Bobcats have played better since Paul Silas took over for Larry Brown.
What makes this game interesting is a certain Charlotte swingman named Stephen Jackson. The Mavs have seemed to covet the boisterous Bobcat for several years, but have yet to pull the trigger to bring him to Big D.
Will this be the year? The Mavs have 22 days to make that call.