The Dallas Mavericks believe they are more than ready to step onto the national stage and show the rest of the country just how well they’ve been performing lately.
Armed with three consecutive road wins on this four-game road trip, the Mavs (30-33) will go after the clean sweep at 7 p.m. Thursday when they battle the powerful San Antonio Spurs (49-16) at the AT&T Center on TNT.
Counting a win over Houston eight days ago, the Mavs have emerged victorious a season-high-tying four games in a row. But the Spurs, they know, will be tough.
“They’re one of the better teams in the Western Conference and in the whole NBA this year, and they’re always one of the toughest teams to play against, especially at home,” point guard Mike James said. “But we’re on a mission right now and they’re just in the way.”
So far this season, the Spurs have had their way with the Mavs. In Dirk Nowitzki’s first game of the season, the Spurs led by 46 points in an eventual 129-91 triumph on Dec. 23 in San Antonio.
On Dec. 30, the Spurs traveled to Dallas and again humbled the Mavs 111-86.
Also in Dallas, the Spurs ran their record over the Mavs this season to 3-0 when they eked out a 113-107 victory on Jan. 25.
“They’re always tough,” Nowitzki said. “For some reason against us they always play their best game.”
While that may be true, the Mavs feel as though they’re playing their best basketball of the season and are fully prepared to take on the Spurs. Especially if Shawn Marion — he missed the past three games with a left calf contusion — is able to play tonight.
“It’s one of our big rivals,” center Brandan Wright said. “It’s going to be a big game. They’ve handled us pretty well so far this year and they’re going to try to crush us again, but we’ll be ready.”
Nowitzki likes the team’s positive vibe as the Mavs continue to chase one of the Western Conference’s eight playoff spots.
“I said if you win in this league it’s more fun,” Nowitzki said. “Even Coach [Rick Carlisle], is smiling once in a while.
“The energy is better, it’s more positive, it’s louder on the bus and everybody can joke a little more. Obviously, when you lose, everybody is a little bit on the edge, so yeah it’s been fun and hopefully we can keep this going.”
Vince Carter’s superb play is one reason the Mavs are confident tonight. He has helped make the Mavs relevant again.
Yet, even Carter knows the Mavs must raise their game if they hope to defeat the Spurs, who own the second-best winning percentage (.754) in the NBA behind the Miami Heat (.774).
“We’re going to the best team in the NBA on their home floor, so I think we’re going to have to continue to have low turnovers,” Carter said. “And we still have to shoot the ball well, and we’ve got to rebound and we’ve got to contain their stars.”
The Mavs, who signed point guard Chris Wright to a 10-day contract on Wednesday, also must try to keep the crowd out of the game. It’s a prospect every Spurs’ opponent faces, since San Antonio owns the fourth-best home record in the NBA at 26-4.
“That’s going to be a tough for one for us, but they’re standing in the way of what we’re trying to do, and so it really doesn’t matter who we play,” James said. “It’s about what we’ve got to do and stick to our game plan on the basketball court. And that’s what we’re going to focus on for 48 minutes in San Antonio, knowing that they’re a tough team.”