Not that there’s ever a great time to play Golden State, but this is absolutely the worst time for the Dallas Mavericks to be playing the Warriors, who own the NBA’s second-best record and are the league’s highest scoring team.
One of the reasons the Mavs reached out to Boston on Dec. 18 and traded for Rajon Rondo was for occasions like this — when the Mavs are matched against Stephen Curry, the Warriors’ electrifying All-Star point guard who has been terrorizing defenders this season.
Rondo, however, didn’t make the trip to Northern California due to an orbital fracture of his left eye and a nasal fracture. He sustained the injuries after colliding with teammate Richard Jefferson during Saturday’s win at Orlando.
To compound matters, backup point guard Devin Harris suffered a left leg injury Monday night when Minnesota’s man-child — the 6-foot-11, 295-pound Nikola Pekovic — landed on him and caused excruciating pain.
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“He’s a little banged-up, but we don’t consider it serious,” coach Rick Carlisle said of Harris. “He’ll probably be listed as questionable, and we’ll update you whenever we update you.”
If Harris can’t play against the Warriors (37-8), then the Mavs (33-17) will be down to J.J. Barea and Raymond Felton as their lone point guards.
Barea started in Rondo’s place in Monday’s 100-94 win over Minnesota. He contributed 10 points and eight assists, including the final four points to seal the game.
But defending a rusty Ricky Rubio — as Barea did Monday — and going head-to-head against Curry poses an entirely different set of unique circumstances.
“You’ve just got to bother him,” Barea said of Curry. “You’ve got to be a little bit physical, and you’ve got to go at him on the other side.
“Hopefully you guard him the best you can, put your hand up and hopefully he’ll miss.”
Slowing down Curry, who averages 23 points and 8.1 assists and will start in the Feb. 15 All-Star game, is no small challenge. It’s a tactical assignment that requires as much good luck as it does hard work.
“Whoever is available has got to step up and got to get the job done,” Carlisle said. “If Harris is available, that’s great. If it turns out that he isn’t, then Barea and Felton got to get it done for us. This is why you have a deep team — for these situations.”
The Rondo-Curry matchup is one that the Mavs had been eying for some time. Unfortunately, it won’t happen Wednesday night.
“We’d love to have Rondo, obviously, going into a game like this,” forward Dirk Nowitzki said. “He’s a big-game player, he’s a great defender at the guard spot.”
“But every team has injuries. We’ve faced numerous teams so far that had key players down, so we just got to get in there.”
If Barea starts Wednesday, at least he’ll have one game under his belt while getting familiar with the intricacies of being a starter as opposed to being the spark plug off the bench.
“He’s a veteran guy and he expects to play well and we expect him to play well,” Carlisle said. “With starting and playing more minutes, it’s a little different approach for him.
“Usually off the bench, he comes in as an attacker and a scorer mostly. He’s got to get the ball moving a little more as a starter if gets going, and I thought he did a good job of that [Monday] night.”
The concept suits Barea just fine, but he knows he’s got to be a little more polished at both ends because of the overwhelming impact Curry can have on a game.
“To me, I’ve got to be a little more patient as a starter,” Barea said. “You got to be a little more patient, just fly your way into the game, and get everybody more involved.
“Off the bench you can be a little bit more aggressive, bring more energy and whatever they need me to do.”
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760