Preview: Mavericks at Wolves
The Dallas Mavericks are coming off possibly their best road win of the season. Earning another Wednesday night won’t gain them similar credibility.
The Mavericks will face the Western Conference-worst Minnesota Timberwolves, who return from a reasonable road trip to an eight-game home losing streak.
Monday’s 103-95 win at Southwest Division-leading Memphis marked the opening of the second half of the schedule for the Mavericks (29-13), and coach Rick Carlisle expects the coming months to be more difficult than the first half.
"We’ve played a favorable schedule the first 41," Carlisle told the team’s official website. "Our record looks good, but we’re in for a different kind of competition. And we knew if you’re going to start it out, then this is the way to start it out. You know, on the road in Memphis against this kind of physical, smash-mouth team, our guys knew we had to take the challenge. We had to be persistent and we had to stay the course."
Monta Ellis had a game-high 25 points, but it was Dirk Nowitzki who closed out the game with the last eight for Dallas in the final two minutes to overcome a late deficit. Nowitzki finished with 21 points, while Tyson Chandler had his third straight double-double with 10 points and 16 rebounds. He’s averaging 16.3 rebounds in that time but could use more consistent help on the glass.
The Mavericks have won consecutive games with an even rebounding differential after a 1-3 stretch in which they were outrebounded by 12.8 per game.
Turnovers have been more of a positive. Going 9-3 since Christmas, they have limited themselves to 11.4 per game, second-lowest in the league in that time.
"We stayed even with (Memphis) on the boards. We had a low turnover game (13)," said Carlisle, whose team is among the best road teams in the West at 15-7. "If you do those two things, you at least have a chance."
Things came easier in a 131-117 home win over Minnesota on Nov. 15. Dallas led by as many as 26 points and shot 55.3 percent while Ellis starred with 30 points.
The Timberwolves (7-33) might better remember it as the last time Nikola Pekovic took the court as well as for what they’re missing with Kevin Martin sidelined.
Pekovic (ankle) has missed the 31 games since, while Martin scored a game-high 34 in one of Minnesota’s better offensive efforts. Martin appeared in one more game before fracturing his wrist, and the team is 4-26 without the duo. Both players are said to be nearing returns.
The Timberwolves, whose 3-16 home record includes a 1-12 mark against the West, completed a 2-2 road trip with Monday’s 105-80 defeat in Charlotte.
"They mauled us, really," said coach Flip Saunders, whose team’s 36.3 percent shooting night was its second-worst of the season.
Thaddeus Young had a game-high 18 points, and Andrew Wiggins was held to 12 after a 31-point effort Saturday in a 113-105 win in Denver.
It was one of Wiggins’ poorer shooting nights at 3 of 14, but the rookie has reached double figures in 14 straight games while averaging 20.7 points on 48.6 percent shooting. That’s up from 12.0 on 38.5 percent in his first 26 games.
Another loss would mark the Timberwolves’ longest home skid since dropping 10 straight Feb. 10-March 28, 2010. Minnesota has one win against a team with a winning record, and Dallas has won 12 of the last 15 meetings in Minneapolis.