The Dallas Mavericks need to get used to the fire and brimstone they faced Friday against the Portland Trail Blazers.
They’re going to witness a lot of intense moments in the coming weeks, starting at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at American Airlines Center against the Indiana Pacers.
Although the Pacers drag a three-game losing streak, into Dallas, they’re tied with the Oklahoma City Thunder for the best record in the NBA at 46-16. The Mavs are not going to be deceived by the Pacers’ poor showings of late.
“They’re coming off consecutive losses here, so they’re going to be loaded up and ready,’’ coach Rick Carlisle said after Saturday’s practice. “We know that, so we’re going to be the same.
“That’s the bottom line.’’
The Mavs still have games left with San Antonio, Phoenix, Memphis and Brooklyn, and two games each remaining with Oklahoma City, Golden State and the Los Angeles Clippers. And they have one more game against Denver, a surprising 3-0 against the Mavs this season.
“It’s the reality of the schedule,’’ Carlisle said. “We’re going to have to play those teams at some point.
“We’ve played a lot of them already, but we’re going to play more than we’ve been playing. I think the guys realize that continuing to work at heightening our level of play is going to be paramount. We have no other choice.’’
The Pacers have lost three straight, including 112-86 Friday night in Houston.
“They’re still a good basketball team, they’re still one of the best in the NBA,’’ forward Vince Carter said. “We know we still have a challenge.
“It doesn’t matter how they’re playing. They’re still good enough to win games.’’
The Mavs will be ready for the intensity of the postseason if they survive a rugged closing schedule.
“Hard opponents are hard opponents,’’ said Carlisle, whose team blew a 30-point lead before defeating the Blazers 103-98 on Friday. “Portland and Indiana in consecutive games, you’re not going to get a lot harder than that.
“Then you’ve got to go to Golden State, and that’s always a hard place to play, and they’re good. It’s an opportunity for us to work at raising our level, because if you don’t it’s going to be very difficult.’’
During a 24-hour span on Feb. 11-12, it was both the worst of times and best of times for the Mavs.
First, the Mavs flew to Charlotte and were plastered by the Bobcats, losing 114-89. It was the worst loss of the season for Dallas.
But the very next day the Mavs defeated the Pacers (81-73), who had the NBA’s best overall record and top home record at the time.
“I thought we played aggressively,’’ Carlisle said. “We were coming off a disappointing loss the night before.
“They didn’t play their best game.’’
In that game the Mavs held Pacer All-Star Paul George to just 12 points on 4-of-17 shooting.