Pacers-Mavericks Preview

With some new additions in the mix, the Dallas Mavericks are

playing like a team with a renewed sense of purpose.

The Mavericks look to continue their solid play with a fourth

straight victory Monday night while trying for a sixth consecutive

home win over the Indiana Pacers.

Dallas (35-21) lost five of seven heading into the All-Star

break, then dropped its first game back by 13 points at Oklahoma

City. The Southwest Division-leading Mavericks have bounced back

with wins against playoff contenders Phoenix, Orlando and

Miami.

The Mavericks are fourth in the Western Conference, but poised

to improve that position.

“We had 30 games left after the All-Star break,” said guard

Jason Kidd, who had 21 points and 11 assists in a 97-91 win over

the Heat on Saturday. “Being a veteran ballclub, we understand

what’s at stake. So the dress rehearsal is over and we’ve got to

get serious.”

Nowitzki scored 28 points and newcomer Caron Butler added 20

against a Miami team playing without injured superstar Dwyane

Wade.

Though they’ve only been with the team for a week, Butler and

center Brendan Haywood appear to be paying dividends for the

Mavericks after being acquired, along with DeShawn Stevenson, from

Washington for underachieving veterans Josh Howard, Drew Gooden and

two others.

Butler is averaging 16.0 points in a more limited offensive role

in four games with his new team, while Haywood has put up 10.8

points and 8.7 rebounds in his first four contests with the

Mavericks. The pair also seems to be helping the team improve on

the defensive end.

Dallas’ four opponents since the break are averaging 93.0 points

on 44.1 percent shooting. In going 3-5 prior to the break, the

Mavericks gave up 112.4 points and their opponents shot 52.9

percent during that span.

“I think we’re getting better,” Nowitzki told the Mavericks’

official Web site. “If good players just play off each other and

play unselfish and play together, we’ll be OK…It’s been fun.”

The fun could continue as the Mavericks try for a fifth

consecutive victory overall against the Pacers (19-36). Dallas has

won eight of nine overall against Indiana, and nine of 10 at home

in the series.

Nowitzki, who had 31 points in a 113-92 win at Indiana on Nov.

27, is averaging 27.5 points in his last 11 games versus the

Pacers. Butler is averaging 27.3 and 9.3 rebounds in his last six

against Indiana.

Though the Mavericks are averaging 109.6 points and shooting

50.9 percent during their five-game home winning streak over the

Pacers, Indiana enters this contest coming off a 125-115 at Houston

on Saturday.

Danny Granger matched a season high with 36 points and T.J. Ford

scored 19 of his season-high 23 in the second half as the Pacers

snapped a four-game losing streak and improved to 7-21 on the

road.

“It’s been a rough season for all of us,” said Ford, averaging

10.5 points in 37 games this season. “We understand teams are

really going to look past us and it’s an opportunity for us to try

to win a lot of games and get back in the hunt.”

Granger is averaging 28.8 points in his last four contests, but

10.8 in four career road games against the Mavericks.