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News » Tonight's game is a litmus test Improving Mavs will see how far they've come vs. 12-1 Lakers

Tonight's game is a litmus test Improving Mavs will see how far they've come vs. 12-1 Lakers

Tonight's game is a litmus test Improving Mavs will see how far they've come vs. 12-1 Lakers
In the season's first month, the Los Angeles Lakers have been the NBA's best team, which is nothing compared to what the Mavericks have done.

Don't believe it? How else would you describe a team that openly showed its flaws to the whole world and now seems to have patched up a lot of them?

It's a lot tougher to start out broke and fix oneself than to be top notch from the very beginning, although maybe not as much fun.

"I think it's just a comfort level with what we're doing," Dirk Nowitzki says. "That's really it. We didn't really know what to run, what we were comfortable with in the first couple games.

"Now, we know what to do out there a little more. When you're comfortable on the court, it shows. We're able to put ourselves in position where we can make plays and make shots."

The Mavericks will find out just how much their house is in order tonight when they visit the Lakers, who haven't clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference yet, even though it seems like it as they hum along with a 12-1 record.

The season is not yet one-sixth done and already people are wondering if the Lakers can be beaten. The Mavericks certainly won't argue the point going into the opener of a quick two-game trip to California that ends in Sacramento on Saturday.

"They've been dominant," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "Look at their statistics and they appear to have no weakness. They've got length, and they play both ends of the floor. We have a very low margin for error offensively and defensively against them because they're the best right now."

That said, Carlisle also feels empowered about the way his team has played during a five-game winning streak. The Mavericks already have lost once to the Lakers, a setback that came during the five-game losing streak that preceded their present run. But Carlisle's team has gotten better since then.

"We feel like we're becoming a dangerous team," he said. "But at the same time, we're very aware of the fine line between winning and losing."

As painful as it was, their 2-7 start served a purpose. It forced the Mavericks to realize how much ground they need to cover. And even after pulling even at .500, the journey is far from complete.

"I think at this point we've learned from our mistakes earlier in our season," Jason Terry said. "We're just a team that's looking to get better and better at each opportunity.

Getting their attention: Today ends a six-day stretch in which the Mavericks played one game. Before Tuesday's game against Indiana, they had two days of practice that the players said were pretty harsh.

"We had two tremendous days of practice in which we prepared," Terry said. "We prepared hard, man, almost like a mini-training camp that we went through."

It's not uncommon for practices to run on for more than two hours. It's become common for Dirk Nowitzki to joke at the end of particularly long workouts that he's going to get the players' association on the phone as soon as possible.

"With the practices we've been having, I'd rather play, to be honest," Nowitzki said, half-jokingly. "We've been practicing three or four hours. I told them yesterday that I'd rather have 41 back-to-backs than one practice with Carlisle."

Turning serious, he added: "No, we need some work obviously on both ends of the floor. We can get sharper. We've been doing a lot of work in practice."

Briefly: It remains to be seen whether Josh Howard will be back for tonight's game. He went through a half-court scrimmage during the Thanksgiving Day practice before the team flew to LA. Howard also did extensive shooting under the watchful eye of Carlisle. ... Whether or not Howard is ready, Antoine Wright will start again, either at shooting guard or small forward, after his career-best 24-point outing against Indiana.

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: November 29, 2008


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