Mavericks-Timberwolves Preview

The Associated Press

The Dallas Mavericks may have their swagger back now that the defending NBA champions have notched their first win in four tries to kick off the lockout-shortened season.

Their rediscovered confidence could be tested Sunday night when the Mavericks try to extend their dominance over the winless Minnesota Timberwolves.

Dallas (1-3) swept the three-game season series in 2010-11, and is 18-1 against the Timberwolves dating back to Jan. 7, 2006. Over that 19-game stretch, the Mavericks have gone 9-0 at the Target Center, winning by an average of 15.5 points.

Minnesota (0-3) - led by budding star Ricky Rubio - has lost all three of its games by a combined nine points as it tries to turn the corner from NBA doormat.

Dallas had been in danger of being the first defending champion to start 0-4 since the 1969-70 Boston Celtics. Instead, the Mavericks got a career-high 19 points from Ian Mahinmi and 18 from Dirk Nowitzki in Friday's 99-86 win over Toronto.

"We knew it would happen, it was just a matter of time," said Jason Terry, who scored 10 of his 17 points in the third quarter as Dallas erased a seven-point deficit. "… Now that we know how we have to play, we're a confident team."

Mahinmi, who had averaged fewer than four points over his first three NBA seasons with San Antonio and Dallas, has been nearly perfect from the field over his last two games, shooting 90.0 percent (9 of 10) and averaging 14.0 points.

"The last two nights he's given us a really high level of energy," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said.

However, the Mavericks' continued success lies with Nowitzki, the team's scoring leader with 22.0 points per game. While averaging 23.2 points in 23 road games against the Wolves, Nowitzki's 51.4 percent shooting from the field at the Target Center is his best away from home.

Another solid effort from Nowitzki should help Dallas build off its best game of the young season.

"Games are going to be hard all year. (Friday's game) is probably a template for how we're going to have to play a lot of nights," Carlisle told the Mavericks' official website.

Minnesota nearly pulled off a stunning upset Friday, but fell 103-101 to Miami. The Timberwolves remained winless after Dwyane Wade scored on an inbounds pass from LeBron James with 4.6 seconds to play.

Even after another loss, Adelman believes positive results will come soon.

"It's just sooner or later you have to keep through it and give yourself a win at the end. If they stay with, they'll do that," he said.

Rubio had 12 points, 12 assists and six rebounds against the Heat in just his third NBA game. The Spanish star is averaging a team-best 7.3 assists to go with 8.0 points per game.

Kevin Love, who is among the league's top scorers this season at 26.0 points per game, is averaging just 15.3 in five career matchups at home versus Dallas.

Sunday's contest also marks the first time Minnesota guard J.J. Barea will face his former team after spending his first five NBA seasons with the Mavericks.

"It's Dallas, I've got all my friends there," Barea told the Timberwolves' official website.

The speedy Barea blossomed during Dallas' title run last season, averaging 9.5 points and 3.9 assists as the change-of-pace backup to aging veteran Jason Kidd. Barea averaged 8.9 points and 3.4 assists in the playoffs, tallying 32 points with 10 assists in the final two victories over Miami in the NBA finals.

Barea, who missed Friday's matchup with a strained right hamstring, expects to play Sunday.

"It will be a little bit weird out there, guarding my teammates," said Barea, who's averaging 11.5 points and a team-high 3.0 steals this season.

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