The Dallas Mavericks got through a tough first half of their six-game road trip without losing, and it certainly doesn’t appear that should change in the second half of it.
They’ll look for a sixth straight victory Sunday afternoon when they continue the trip against the Atlanta Hawks.
The first half of this road swing was considered a challenge for league-best Dallas (57-11), with three games in four nights and two of them coming against the Eastern Conference’s top teams—Detroit and Cleveland. The Mavericks, however, took advantage of the Pistons missing point guard Chauncey Billups in a 92-88 victory on Sunday, and one night after winning easily at New York, they beat LeBron James and the Cavaliers 98-90.
Dallas does not face an opponent with a winning record over the final three games of the trip and began that stretch on Friday with a 109-95 victory over Boston, owner of the worst record in the East. After facing Atlanta (27-43)— only four teams have a worse record than the Hawks—Dallas closes the trip Tuesday against a New Orleans team it has defeated 20 consecutive times.
Friday’s victory saw the Mavs start strong with an 18-4 run, forcing the Celtics to miss 12 of their first 13 shots.
Dallas’ current five-game winning streak began with a 106-101 victory over Boston on March 16 after it suffered back-to-back losses for the first time since the first week of the season.
“That was the first one we won, so it got us started,” point guard Jason Terry said. “More importantly than a winning streak, we’re just trying to get back to playing Maverick basketball on both ends of the floor. I think we’re headed in the right direction.”
The Mavericks have held each of their last three opponents to 40 percent shooting or worse after Boston hit just 36.4 percent.
“Two weeks ago we had a little slippage going on, made some mistakes defensively,” star forward Dirk Nowitzki said. “But I think we’ve cleaned them up. Defensively, I think we’ve looked pretty sharp the last couple of games. Hopefully, we can keep that up going into the playoffs.”
Another constant over the last three games has been the excellent play by Terry, who’s averaging 21.7 points on 65 percent shooting in that span. He made four 3-pointers and scored 29 points on Friday.
Dallas is trying to sweep Atlanta for the second straight season. The Mavs won 110-87 on Feb. 26 as they shot 54.3 percent and got 27 points from Nowitzki.
Hawks leading scorer Joe Johnson had a game-high 29 points in that meeting, but is expected to miss a 10th straight game Sunday with a calf injury.
Atlanta is trying to earn a split of a four-game homestand following a 102-100 overtime loss to Portland on Friday. The Hawks led by as many as 15 points in the first half, but were hurt by giving up 21 offensive rebounds.
“We just didn’t get it done,” said forward Josh Smith, who had 17 points and 11 boards. “We had the opportunity to win, but those second-chance points hurt us.”
Salim Stoudamire scored a career-high 37 points off the bench, including six 3-pointers. He entered the game averaging 6.5 points.
“I’d rather get zero points and win,” Stoudamire said. “(The career high) means nothing to me. I wanted to beat them.”
Atlanta fell to 13-16 against Western Conference foes.
Smith is hoping to duplicate his success defending Nowitzki from his first three career games against Dallas. Nowitzki shot under 39 percent while averaging 19.5 points in those meetings and had his shot blocked several times the first time he faced Smith when the Hawks forward recorded a career-high 10 blocks on Dec. 18, 2004.
The Mavs star has played better against the Hawks in the last two meetings with back-to-back 27-point performances.