Enjoying a much needed three day break, the Mavericks seem to be on the mend and on the upswing, after their largest win of the season on Sunday over Golden State. With the exception of Caron Butler, everyone practiced yesterday. Even Peja Stojakovic, fresh off his unbelievable performance after a six game layoff, practiced despite some lingering effects of a stiff neck.
Shawn Marion returned to practice despite having a sore right wrist, which he injured Friday night in the Mavericks loss to the Spurs. With about a dozen games left before the playoffs, this is a good sign for Dallas. The playoffs are a grind. The Mavs are a very seasoned, veteran team with a lot of experience (translation: they are old). Today Jason Kidd turns 38! (Happy Birthday JKidd!)
Despite their age, this team is poised to break the 50 win mark for the eleventh consecutive season. So health and rest has been a concern all year. With everyone healthy and hopefully rested, the Mavs should be in good shape for a Championship push.
Some other news and notes around the league that could have an impact on the Mavs title run. First, Kevin Love will not be with the Timberwolves tomorrow as Minnesota comes to town. Love will miss several games with a groin injury. Anthony Randolph will get the start in his place. Surely the Mavs cannot lose to the Wolves now (don’t make me regret writing that boys).
Second, Tim Duncan went down with a twisted ankle and he will miss several games. Though the team is reporting that there was no structural damage, who knows how serious it really is. If Duncan is slow in returning to the court, the Spurs could be in some trouble and ripe for an upset.
Third, the Lakers won a hard-fought triple-overtime game with the Suns last night, increasing their lead to a game and a half over Dallas in the second seed. The Mavs must keep the lead close as the teams will play on March 31st. Getting that spot could be huge if the Lakers and Mavs square off in the playoffs. The Mavs must take care of business before, during, and after the game with Kobe and the boys.
Rick Carlisle has to be feeling somewhat better about the state of his team right now. After calling his team soft a few weeks ago, the team is 3-3. But after Peja’s return, knocking down five treys and the team scoring over 100 points without Marion, this team is demonstrating heart and resilience. Carlisle mentioned that he used this break to work on defense and would like to get the rotation and roles more established before the playoffs start.
To be sure, the interior defense needs to get better. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli made sure that no one could miss that fact. Tyson Chandler and Brendon Haywood must be more of a force in the middle while avoiding foul trouble. Roddy Beaubois and Jason Kidd must do a better job of keeping guys from penetrating. But the offense looks good. And it could get better. It starts by giving the Love-less T-Wolves a beat down tomorrow night.