HOUSTON — After pushing one of the NBA’s upper-echelon teams for four quarters in the last game without a bevy of their veteran leaders, the Dallas Mavericks hope to head into the All-Star break on a high note Tuesday night at American Airlines Center.
Traveling to Houston minus 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki (left ankle effusion), veteran guard J.J. Barea (return from injury management) and swingman Wesley Matthews (lower back tightness), the Mavericks (18-39) fought hard against the rival Rockets before suffering a 104-97 defeat Sunday evening. The Mavs now hope to bounce back on their home hardwood in the final test before the lengthy layoff, welcoming the Sacramento Kings to town. And after seeing rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. orchestra the offense nearly to perfection with 16 points, five rebounds and a career-high 11 assists in Sunday’s loss, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle is confident the team can head into the break with another strong performance under its belt.
“I loved everything about it. The compete level was excellent. We battled the whole way,” Carlisle said after Sunday’s loss. “I loved Smith’s game. You know, the balance between scoring and playmaking was excellent. It’s a lot to ask to come in here and win the game, but to basically compete the whole way, hang around and make them play the whole game was good. I thought our guys got better.”
Playing without Smith during the first meeting against the Kings (17-38), the Mavs suffered a hard-fought 93-88 home loss on Oct. 20. However, the Mavericks returned the favor by capturing a 106-99 victory in Sacramento on Feb. 3 to even the season series at 1-1. Now, the Mavs will try to be the first of the two teams to hold serve on their own home floor Tuesday night.
The Mavericks got their revenge earlier this month by staging a 16-0 run to begin the fourth quarter en route to the win. The Mavs were also bolstered by leading scorer Harrison Barnes’ 18 points on 7-of-14 shooting and 4 of 8 from three-point range, seizing the second showdown between the teams with gritty play. The Kings outshot the Mavs during that game, 52.4 percent to 49.4 percent, but they couldn’t overcome Dallas’ 37-31 rebounding edge and 13 points off Sacramento’s 16 turnovers. Dallas will now attempt to replicate that success Tuesday night. And according to Barnes, perseverance and composure will carry the Mavs to another win to enter the mid-season break on a high note.
“I thought we did a great job of just keeping our composure and battling,” Barnes said after the Mavs’ win in Sacramento earlier this month. “You know, there were some plays where there was some contact and some fouls weren’t called, but I thought we did a great job of just persevering through that and doing what we needed to do to get this win.”
Note: The Mavericks will now return to American Airlines Center on Tuesday against the Sacramento Kings. The season series is tied at 1-1. The game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest and 103.3 FM ESPN. The game will also air in Spanish on KFLC AM 1270. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting Mavs.com, or by calling (214) 747-MAVS.
J.J. Barea (return from injury management) — probable
Dirk Nowitzki (left ankle effusion) — probable
Wesley Matthews (lower back tightness) — probable
Salah Mejri (stiff neck) — questionable
Dorian Finney-Smith (left knee quadriceps tendinitis) — out
Seth Curry (left leg surgery) — out
Nerlens Noel (left thumb surgery) — out