Week ahead: Mavs must take first two

And so it's back to work after the most grueling and disappointing stretch of the season for the Dallas Mavericks.

As Jason Terry said after Saturday's third consecutive loss that dropped Dallas to 23-20 with 23 games left in the regular season, it's time to let reality set in and move on.

Coach Rick Carlisle beat the drum of positivity after completing the 2-7 stretch.

"We went through this, it was tough, it was disappointing, but we have to move forward and keep our spirits up and stay upbeat about the week ahead," Carlisle said. "I’m going to be optimistic and positive with the guys, as well as being truthful. Monday is a big day for us."

It's big because it begins a new stretch of games and because the Mavs could find out that they'll soon be whole again. Starting center Brendan Haywood could get the go-ahead to return and Brandan Wright could, as well. Delonte West, so important to this team's defensive attitude as well as backing up Jason Kidd on the offensive end, will have his broken right ring finger examined.

"We’ve got to fight through some injuries," Dirk Nowitzki said, "and hopefully we get the guys back soon and make a push.”

Then come two games that should get the week off to a good start if the Mavs are unified and truly engaged in making a push during the final third of the season.

The Washington Wizards and Charlotte Bobcats are at the American Airlines Center on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively. These two teams have combined for 14 wins, or as many as the Sacramento Kings. They have five road wins between them. Only one team (Sacramento) allows more points per game than Washington. Only Charlotte averages fewer than 88 points.

Two wins could jump-start some momentum before the San Antonio Spurs come to town Saturday night to kick off a highly competitive stretch of 12 games. A loss to either could serve as a fatal blow to a fragile team.

Tuesday: vs. Washington Wizards (9-30), 7:30 p.m.

TV/Radio: FSSW/ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)

What to watch: The Wizards are actually on one of their better stretches, which is what you have to call going 2-2 after a six-game losing streak. Those wins both came at home against Cleveland and the Los Angeles Lakers. Washington plays at San Antonio on Monday and will be playing a third game in four nights against a Mavs team that will have had two full days to recover. The Wizards have four players that score in double figures, led by a trio of guards -- John Wall (17.4), Nick Young (16.6) and Jordan Crawford (12.9).

Thursday: vs. Charlotte Bobcats (5-34), 7:30 p.m.

TV/Radio: FSSW/ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)

What to watch: The league's worst team is 2-19 on the road, ranks dead last in scoring and 27th in points allowed. One player, Corey Maggette, averages more than 15 points a game (16.2). They've lost nine of 10 entering tonight's game at New Orleans and 24 of 26. They somehow rallied from a 20-point deficit in the first half to beat the Orlando Magic by 16 on March 6. They've lost three in a row since, to Utah, New Jersey and Oklahoma City. The Bobcats' stop in Dallas will be the finale of a four-game road swing and fifth game in seven nights.

Saturday: vs. San Antonio Spurs (26-13), 7:30 p.m.

TV/Radio: FSSW, NBA TV/ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)

What to watch: It's been a strange first two games in this series, with the Spurs raining 3s in a blowout win at San Antonio and the Mavs taking the second meeting in Dallas in overtime. Dallas blew an 18-point lead in the second half as Gregg Popovich rolled with his hot-shooting reserves for the final quarter-and-half. Danny Green thought he hit the game-winner at the buzzer, but replays showed he got the shot off a split-second too late. The Spurs will have Manu Ginobili for the first time this season against the Mavs, who should have the benefit of a day of rest while San Antonio will be coming of Friday night game at Oklahoma City. If the Spurs were pull off the road win, it would make it very difficult for Dallas to make a run at the Southwest Division crown.