The Mavericks know tonight is much more than just an important game. How they respond to their putrid showing in Oklahoma two nights ago, plus owner Mark Cuban publicly calling out the players on Tuesday, is going to show everybody plenty about the fabric of this team.
"There has to be a seriousness about coming to work tonight,'' Jason Terry said after shootaround. "We're prepared. Coach has done his job. Now it's on the players to come out and respond. We know our fans are going to be into it from the jump ball. This is a big game for us tonight. We're not concerned about what anybody thinks right now. Our focus is on the Spurs. Everything else is out the window.''
The Mavericks will have to deal with Tim Duncan, who missed last week's game in San Antonio, and Tony Parker, who sliced and diced the Mavericks early in that game, which ended up being an easy Spurs victory.
"He had it going early,'' coach Rick Carlisle said of Parker, who started off hot, but actually only shot 6-of-20 after the first quarter. "And we just did a better job with our coverages from then on. He got two or three transition baskets. He's a great player. Duncan wasn't playing that night, so he was going to get more touches that night. They got Duncan back and that makes them a better team. We're going to have to deal with both of those guys.''
Carlisle, by the way, also addressed Cuban's rant on the Mavericks, in which he said he'd rather "turn the roster over 100 percent than subject fans to another game'' like the one in Oklahoma.
"Mark's (ticked),'' Carlisle said. "And I understand that. We got to bounce back and play better and win games. It's a 22-game season. There are nine teams in the West that are all good, talented teams, capable of not only getting to the playoffs but winning in the playoffs. It's very competitive. So we got our work cut out for us.
"But this should be what it's about. This is the kind of challenge you should look forward to and embrace. I got a lot of faith in our guys, a lot of belief in them. We stunk the other night and that happens. But we got to bounce back and get better.
"I have confidence in our guys. We're not a perfect team. But right now, it's about sticking together and coming out tonight and playing like a son of a gun.''
Josh Howard, meanwhile, is a game-time decision, but all signs this morning pointed toward him playing against the Spurs. --Eddie Sefko