The Mavericks return home tonight after a three-game road trip that saw them fall in back-to-back games against the Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Bucks. Opting not to take Sunday off, the Mavericks practiced in preparation for meeting the Washington Wizards.
The Mavericks have won nine of their last 11 against Washinton and haven't lost consecutive matchups against them since 1997. Despite that streak of success, the last time the Mavs met Washington, the Wizards played spoilers to the first of several big Mavs winning streaks. After losing the first four games in 2006, the Mavs had rattled off 12 straight wins, one of which had been against Washington by way of a 107-80 thrashing at the AAC six games prior. The Wizards weren't having any of that as Gilbert Arenas' 38 points led the Wizards by the Mavericks and snapped their winning streak.
Arenas out for awhile
Unfortunately for the Wizards, they won't see any of that repeat magic from their star since he's out of commission for three months after having knee surgery last Wednesday. He is having a torn meniscus repaired in his left knee, which is the same surgery he had in April. After enduring some painful swelling and having fluid drained from the knee, Arenas couldn't take it any longer. The Mavericks shouldn't see Agent Zero at all this year as he should still be sidelined in mid-January when the Mavs travel to Washington.
Butler stepping up mightily
With Arenas sidelined, small forward Caron Butler has piled a large portion of the Wizards' chances upon his shoulders. He got his first career triple double Friday and is averaging 30.6 points on 53.8 percent shooting. If that's not enough, coach Eddie Jordan has Butler averaging over 43 minutes per game over those last three games. For a guy who has traditionally had injury problems (although none too major), maybe it isn't best to be riding the guy like a pack mule. Either way, expect to see a lot from Caron Butler tonight. The matchup of Butler and Josh Howard and will be interesting as their games are similar. Both are solid defensive players who can score from all over, play the same position and are of similar size. Butler is also near the top of the league in steals, so the Mavericks also need to pay extra attention to making sharp passes and keep an eye on their passing lanes.
Wizards are tired too
No excuses tonight. The Mavericks just finished up a stretch of four games in five days by playing two back-to-backs. They won't find much sympathy from the Wizards, as they just did the exact same and are also coming off one day's rest after playing four games in five days. In fact, the Wizards are likely more weary since they played tougher opponents than the Mavs (Memphis and Golden State) and will travel to San Antonio with one day's rest after facing the Mavs. Then they will play in Philadelphia two days after that. That's almost 3,500 miles of flight total on their four-game road trip before they return home. The Mavs have their own warm beds to look forward to for the two games after this one, and that's more respite than Washington is getting. If the Mavericks get outhustled in this one, it's because they aren't hustling.
Peripheral players stepping up
Center Brendan Haywood is having a career year and is averaging career highs in points (9.5), rebounds (8.9) and blocks (1.8). In year's past, Haywood's biggest competition at center was Etan Thomas. Thomas recently had open-heart surgery and his career might be over. This has opened up more minutes for Haywood and he has responded accordingly. Behind Jamison and Butler, Thomas is the best player you'll likely see on the floor tomorrow. Third-year power forward Andray Blatche has also been stepping up his game lately and is scoring and rebounding well. Point guard Antonio Daniels has also been filling in well with Arenas out and has averaged 11.6 points and 7.8 assists since Arenas played his last game.
With Devin Harris having a breakout season, let's not forget to be thankful to the Wizards. The Mavs traded Antawn Jamison in their infamous house cleaning in the summer of 2004 for Jerry Stackhouse, Christian Laettner and the draft rights to Devin Harris on draft day. Jamison is a nice player still and has moved on from being Sixth Man of the Year for the Mavericks to being a leader for the Wizards. That's nice and all, but the blossoming of Harris and the leadership of Stack are crucial strengths of this Mavericks team and it's likely a trade the Mavericks would never want back now that things have panned out as they have.
- Evidently, Wizards guard Deshawn Stevenson and Cavs forward Drew Gooden have a beard-growing contest going.
- Stevenson and Arenas once bet each other several thousand dollars that Arenas could make more college-length three pointers with one hand than Stevenson could make NBA-length three with two hands. It's one of the greatest contests ever.
- Arenas is a giant goober. Evidence here, here and here.
- You have anything more my size?
-Scooter Hendon, Hoops Nerd