Week ahead: Injuries, Rodrigue Beaubois and tough tests

Of the four teams the Dallas Mavericks face this week, three coming on the road, only the Denver Nuggets can claim to be hotter, as well as more mysterious.

More mysterious? The Nuggets, winners of seven of their last 10, did just make the most stunning trade at the deadline, sending Nene to Washington for talented, but blooper-reel center JaVale McGee. They also just reached a long-term deal with forward Wilson Chandler, who headed to China during the lockout. Both players are expected to be available for tonight's game.

As for the Mavs, with 20 games left can anyone claim to pinpoint where this team is headed -- down the drain or on their way to another championship? Injuries are again forcing odd lineups such as this one that actually got some run twice and held its own against the Spurs on Saturday: Jason Terry, Rodrigue Beaubois, Brian Cardinal, Lamar Odom and Brandan Wright.

Dallas might have to go there again tonight at Denver. They know center Brendan Haywood (sprained right knee) won't play and guard Delonte West remains out. It was against the Nuggets more than a month ago that West's right finger bent in a way it never should when he reached out try to make a steal.

The big question is whether small forward Shawn Marion (sore left knee) will be back after missing his first game of the season against the Spurs. Dallas needs him badly on the road to help defend Danilo Gallinari, whose sprained ankle kept him out of the last matchup, and possibly even point guard Ty Lawson, who Marion held to three points and two assists last month.

Since West's injury, Marion has been charged with guarding point guards, which begs the question in tonight's game -- with or without Marion -- if Beaubois will make his second consecutive start after stringing together four impressive outings.

Coach Rick Carlisle doesn't divulge plans for starting lineups, but he did suggest that he might not be particularly hip to the idea of starting Beaubois at shooting guard.

"One of the downsides to starting him is his minutes get run way up," Carlisle said. "He's not used to playing 35, 36 minutes a game. We've got to be mindful of it because of the frequency of games."

At 23, who better to run up big minutes, especially if Beaubois is playing well? The Mavs have two back-to-backs in the next seven games, which isn't crazy by their recent standards.

Beaubois played 35 minutes against the Spurs, recording 16 points and eight rebounds, and he might have gone longer than that had his 3-pointer with about four minutes to go in the game hadn't of missed the basket entirely. Carlisle used that as a cue to get him out of there. In his other recent start at New Orleans on March 2, Beaubois scored 25 points in 31 minutes.

The announcement of tonight's starting lineup will be interesting. Will he or won't he be in it?

Tonight: at Denver Nuggets (25-20), 9:30 p.m.

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

What to watch: Gallinari is back from an awful ankle sprain and after a four-game breaking-in period in which he averaged 4.5 points on 5-of-25 shooting, his touch has returned over the last three games as he's averaged 18.0 points on 17-of-36 shooting, including 7-of-16 from beyond the arc. A rare site on the Nuggets' game-day notes is a blank injury box. The Nuggets, already one of the deeper teams in the league before bringing Chandler back into the fold, hit hard times without Gallinari but seem to be hitting their stride again. They'll push the tempo all night and force the Mavs to keep up.

Wednesday: vs. Los Angeles Lakers (28-17), 8:30 p.m.

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

What to watch: The Mavs know they won't have to worry about a late 3-ball again from Derek Fisher. The Lakers shipped him out at the deadline in favor of younger, more athletic point guard Ramon Sessions, who comes to Tinseltown via Cleveland. L.A. saw its five-game win streak snapped Sunday night against the Jazz. It was only the Lakers' third loss in 22 games at home. On the road, L.A. hasn't exactly been Showtime at 9-14. The Mavs will get the Lakers on the second night of a back-to-back -- they're in Houston on Tuesday. Led by Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, L.A. did get a 96-91 road win at Dallas in the final game before the All-Star break and it sent the Mavs spiraling down a bad path. Odom left on a personal leave prior to that game, but the former Laker is expected to be around for this one.

Friday: at San Antonio Spurs (29-14), 7:30 p.m.

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

What to watch: Tony Parker claimed that he and the boys were worn out from a playoff-atmosphere win at Oklahoma City on Friday and didn't have the energy they needed to win at Dallas on Saturday. It is certainly true that the Mavs were happier about getting that much-needed win than the Spurs were unhappy about dropping it. San Antonio will be better rested for this one. They face Minnesota at home on Wednesday night. Stephen Jackson will also be better integrated into whatever role coach Gregg Popovich sees fit for him. This will be the final game of four this season with the Spurs looking to gain the split. And don't look now, but a first-round playoff series is not out of the question.

Saturday: at Houston Rockets (24-22), 7:30 p.m.

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

What to watch: Wait, these guys are still in the NBA? The Rockets are the only Western Conference team the Mavs haven't faced this season despite being division foes. Dallas might be getting them at the right time, although the week will ultimately bare that out. Houston has played beyond expectations for most of the season but is dangerously close to being knocked out of the playoff mix by the red-hot Phoenix Suns. If the Rockets have an advantage in this one, it will come on two fronts. One, Houston does not play a back-to-back this week and it will be at home all week. Two, it added center Marcus Camby at the deadline to back up Samuel Dalembert. Along with clever power forward Luis Scola, the Rockets might be able to take advantage of a Mavs team that is expected to still be without Haywood and coming off Friday's game at San Antonio.