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Big game tonight. A Mavs win puts them just a game back of the Spurs and almost erases the 0-4 start.

Dallas is a completely different team than they were on opening night - San Antonio will barely recognize them. To quote Gregg Popovich, "They're the Mavs again." Obviously there's the fact the Mavs are the hottest team in the NBA as opposed to the coldest, but there is a lot more to it than that. Greg Buckner has been replaced in the starting lineup by Devin Harris. DeSagana Diop has been replaced by Erick Dampier. Both of those decisions have had a big positive impact on the team.

Up until the Washington game Dampier was playing arguably his best basketball as a Maverick, and Devin Harris has been the second best player on the team since becoming the starting point guard. But the biggest difference for Dallas since the first game of the season has been Dirk.

Dirk Nowitzki TIME FGM FGA PCT 3PM 3PA PCT FTA FTM PCT OFF REB DEF REB TOT REB AST TO STL BLK PF PTS
During the Winning streak 38:57:00 8.71 17.14 50.57 1.00 2.86 28.57 9.57 10.29 93.64 1.43 9.71 11.14 3.43 2.14 0.43 1.14 2.57 28.00
Opening Night vs SAS 32:48:00 9 20 45 2 4 50 1 2 50 2 9 11 1 1 1 1 5 21

There is now way that Dirk shoot just two free throws again tonight. He might not even do that again the rest of the season.

There has been one negative since opening night and that's been the absence of Josh Howard. He's officially listed as doubtful tonight, but he practiced with the team yesterday and apparently looked good.
Howard practiced Thursday, but Avery Johnson couldn't shed any light on his status.

"We'll just get through shootaround [this morning] and see where he goes," Johnson said.

Howard has missed the past eight games after spraining his left ankle Nov. 6 against Golden State.

"It's good to have J-Ho back, and I hope he's playing [tonight]," guard Jason Terry said. "He looked good in practice. We'll see if he does well in the shootaround [this morning]."
My prediction since Howard originally went down has been that he would return for tonights game and I'll stick by it.

On the flip side, Devean George didn't practice with the team yesterday and will almost certainly miss his third game in a row and sixth of the young season.

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As good as the Mavs have been, Sefko and Dirk think there is room for improvement.
But the Mavs still aren't playing elite-caliber basketball, which the Spurs appear to be close to.

"Given our start, this is the best thing we could do," Nowitzki said. "Win them all, and feel good about ourselves going into a big game.

"I wouldn't say we played great basketball in this seven-game winning streak. We did here and there. We had great quarters, great halves. But I don't think there's been a great 48 minutes so far. That's the kind of effort it's going to take down there. If we want to win, we have to be solid the whole game."
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And Jason Terry thinks he need to, and can play better than he has so far.
"He's a very unique player," Johnson said. "He's one of our most effective pick-and-roll players, and he can push it in transition. But that skill that he has to shoot the basketball is pretty rare."

As for his shooting, Terry looked at his 7-of-18 from Tuesday night and 6-of-14 on Monday night and said: "If that's a roll, I can't wait until I get hot. I know I'm a better shooter than I'm doing now."