Thursday, March 13, 2008

Making use of time

The five-game stand at American Airlines Center ends Friday night with Indiana’s lone visit of the regular season. After a lethargic loss to sizzling Houston to open the stretch, the Mavericks responded with three resounding conquests of Eastern Conference also-rans.

The Pacers are also lumped in that out-of-contention group with New Jersey, New York and Charlotte. That’s not to imply the preceding routs are meaningless. The Mavs are in need to good vibes and good wins – NBA cellar-dweller Miami follows Indiana – and time.

“We still have areas of our offense and defense we’re working on,” Avery Johnson said. “We’re still playing against NBA teams. Fortunately, we’ve been able to get away from a few teams here recently, but we’re still working on areas that we know need significant improvement and some areas [need] small improvement.”

They need time for the newcomers to become more comfortable with the system. Time for the guys that have been in Dallas to feel comfortable with their new teammates. Time to bond. The regular season is down to 17 games and the Mavs continue to look up in the standings, rather than down, at their fellow Western Conference contenders.

So, those five minutes at the end of the 25-point blowout mean as much for Tyronn Lue, Malik Allen and Antoine Wright as the previous 43 meant for Jason Kidd. And while the stats for some suggest they’re assimilating well with the newcomers – Dirk Nowitzki, Erick Dampier and Jerry Stackhouse come to mind – every one of these last 17 games is important for everyone to build rapport.

“We feel we have all the pieces to compete,” Kidd said. “It’s just a matter of if we can all be on the same page.”

Read the rest of the story and get a Indiana preview in today’s notebook at

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