The Come Up: Rockets again, then roll through Cali

Monday means “The Come Up” – and the Mavs follow up a light, yet successful X-mas week with another light load. Dallas was focused this past holiday weekend with what was probably their best back-2-back set all year. They hope to get a repeat this upcoming New Year’s weekend in a similar situation. And it go a ‘lil summin’ like this:

Oh, It’s You Again…

Honestly, I’m sick of writing about the Rockets in this space. The most interesting thing about this game is the stuff going on off the court that may or may not get resolved this week before both teams tip it up on New Year’s Eve this Thursday night.

Remember that it was just over a week ago when these two played one of the weirdest and wildest games of the year. Carl Landry went to the hospital after pieces of his grill broke off in Dirk Nowitzki’s lower forearm. Then it got really bizarre.

A myriad of technical fouls, referee conferencing, ejections and video reviews in an overtime home loss motivated the Mavs to file a still unresolved protest. Brother Stein provides the latest on that right here.

Then there’s the Tracy McGrady saga. He went home as one unhappy camper.

Safe money says both of these will still be ongoing sagas come Thursday, but there’s no doubt the Mavs would like to enter 2010 with a five game cushion and the season series advantage on Houston.

Uptown Saturday Night with the cool kid

The casual NBA fan probably didn’t realize what an impressive win the Mavs pulled off against the Memphis Grizzlies (7-4 in December) last Saturday afternoon. If Dallas leaves Sacto on Saturday night with a W, I imagine the significance will also be lost on that same casual fan. But you know better, right?

The Kings are 10-5 at home (for reference, Dallas is 11-5), and they’re coming off a tough double-overtime home loss to the Lakers – more on them in a moment. Tyreke Evans is such a beast and certainly doesn’t play like a kid. Going into last year’s draft I said he’d be the second-best player to Blake Griffin, but I didn’t expect anything like 20 a night and their undisputed leader two months into the season.

Evans was dominant the first time these two played in Dallas a few weeks back when Dallas escaped with a two-point victory. Evans put on a show with 29 points and 10 assists.

The Mavs catch a little bit of a break this time in that Sacramento plays the night before at the Lakers, but that break does a 180 on Sunday night as the Mavs have to fly to LA and play those very same Lakers.

Remember opening weekend? So do they…

I distinctly remember the looks on folks faces in the bowels of the AAC after the Mavs opened the season with a horrific home loss to a bad Washington Wizards team. There was actual panic. Knee-jerking was at an all-time high. There was a thought that Dallas fans knee-deep in Cowboys hysteria would have little time to pay attention to an old Mav team that was far from exciting on the floor.

Then the Mavs went to LA and swept the Lakers and the Clips, and everyone realized that indeed the pulse was there. That Laker win was beyond huge, despite the fact that the Lakeshow was rolling sans Pau Gasol.

That was the night that the glimpse of this team’s true identity first emerged. The Mavericks would be defense first. They held the Lakers to 80 points on 39.5 percent shooting. But most important, they gave Kobe Bryant several different looks, and all of them were effective.

Kobe went 6-for-19 from the floor on a 20-point night, and Shawn Marion, Quinton Ross and Jason Kidd all took turns taking a run at the league’s best player. And this time around, the Mavs will also have Josh Howard to throw at him. Ask 'Melo how effective a JoHo/Matrix defensive tandem can be.

Since that night the first weekend of this season, the Lakers have been the best team in the league. Gasol is back and in the mix for many years to come. You assume Ron Ron will be a strong presence as well, though everyday life has a tendency to derail him in the strangest of ways.

But these boys are the best, and ths is yet another great early-season test of just how good that Mavs’ D can be.