OKLAHOMA CITY -- With Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman missing the past two games because of injuries, the Dallas Mavericks have turned to Brandan Wright and rookie Bernard James for some assistance on the front line.Both have delivered.In the past two games, against Golden State and Phoenix, Wright has 20 points, nine rebounds and four blocks, and is 9-of-15 from the field in 44 minutes. James has 13 points, 13 rebounds and one blocked shot, and is 5-of-6 from the floor in 35 minutes."I think Sarge and B-Wright, they're stepping up and are doing really well," guard O.J. Mayo said. "I'm really proud of both of them."Coach Rick Carlisle refers to Wright and James as his energy players, players capable of coming off the bench and immediately disrupting the opponent's offense."I feel like I've been able to bring a lot of energy to our veteran group and kind of get them going off the jump and contribute by running the floor hard, getting rebounds and blocking shots on defense," James said. "I was happy that they recognized the hard work that I'd been putting in practice, and now I'm getting some payoff for it."Wright knows he and James must be major contributors as long as Nowitzki and Kaman are on the mend. And they'll get another chance when the Mavs (20-27) play at Oklahoma City (35-12) at 7 tonight at Chesapeake Energy Arena."It's tough to play without two of your big guys, but we've been playing like that the whole year," Wright said. "Somebody has been out here and there."Dirk was out for a long time, and Kaman didn't start the season with us. It's just been one of those things where we've been fighting health. But we continue to play hard each and every night.'Each standing 6-foot-10, Wright and Elton Brand are the tallest Mavs players other than Nowitzki and Kaman, who are 7-footers. As long as Nowitzki and Kaman are out, that makes the work of Wright and James even more important.Mavs point guard Darren Collison was proud that James was able to stay on course despite not seeing much playing time earlier in the season."You've just got to stay with it," Collison said. "It's more mental than physical, and he's done that thus far and now he's reaping the benefits." Dynamic duoTwo of the keys to beating Oklahoma City are getting some sort of containment on Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook."We know they're going to get their points, but if we can give them a low shooting percentage night, then we'll be fine," Darren Collison said. "We know they're going to take a lot of shots. But we've just got to limit their shooting percentage and we'll be fine."Durant had 92 points and 17 rebounds, and was 26-of-59 from the field and 31-of-31 from the foul line in the first two games against the Mavs this season. He scored a career-high 52 points in the Jan. 18 game in Dallas, including going 21-of-21 from the free throw line.Westbrook in the two games against Dallas had 47 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists, and was 19-of-46 from the floor.Dwain Price, 817-390-7760Twitter: @DwainPrice
Mavericks at Thunder
7 tonight, Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City
Radio: ESPN/103.3 FM, KFLC/1270 AM (Spanish)
Records: Mavericks 20-27; Thunder 35-12
About the Mavs: The Mavs have played well in their two games against the Thunder this season, but lost both in overtime. The Thunder beat the Mavs 111-105 on Dec. 27 in OKC, and defeated them 117-114 on Jan. 18 in Dallas. .... The Mavs are 28th in the NBA in points allowed (102.9 ppg).
About the Thunder: After starting the season 32-8, the Thunder has lost four of its past seven games. That includes Saturday's 115-110 loss in Cleveland, when Oklahoma City allowed 63 points in the second half.... OKC is first in the league in scoring at 105.8 ppg.
-- Dwain Price