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Setting the Table for Suns (12-12) versus Mavs (20-5)

It is the holiday season but the Mavericks don't have time to go out and spread holiday cheer.  Just hours after starting a new winning streak by defeating the Portland Trail Blazers, the Dallas Mavericks were back on the practice court in preparation to go up against the Phoenix Suns

The Mavericks are looking to go 5-1 during their longest home-stand of the season.  Dallas will see a familiar face in Steve Nash, former Maverick.  Dallas has won six of the last eight games against Phoenix, including the last five at home.  Dirk Nowitzki averaged 26.7 points and 6.7 rebounds against the Suns in 2009-10.  Jason Terry averaged 17.7 points and 3.7 assists in last year’s season series.  Amar'e Stoudemire is gone, but the Suns are still a run-and-gun offense with lots of new weapons at their disposal. 

There will be a strong temptation to fall into a defense-optional game with the Phoenix Suns.  The Suns lead the league in scoring (109 points/game) and they allow the most points in the league on average (110 points/game).  The Mavericks will need to be sure not to fall into that trap against the Suns.  "It’s very important that we come out defensively and impose our will on them," said Jason Terry.  "They’re a high-scoring team, but I don’t think there’s any team in the league, if we come out and play the defense that we’re capable of, that can have success. So, our goal is the same: defensive success."

With the news that Brendan Haywood is still "their guy," it might be a tough game for him to really make an impression. This game does work in favor of Tyson Chandler, on both sides of the floor.  "I like these types of games," Chandler said. "It should be fun for us. It will be fun on both ends. It will be a good way for us to work our defense against a great pick-and-roll team, a high-energy team. And it will be good for our offensive players to get going."

It's always a must-watch to see Steve Nash come back to Dallas.  The two-time MVP left the Dallas Mavericks after the 2003-2004 season to join the Phoenix Suns.  Nash's former BFF, Dirk Nowitzki is looking forward to the game but knows the buzz swirling around the return of Nash isn't as strong as it was over previous years.   "It’s not like it’s his first time coming back,'' Nowitzki said. "He’s been in Phoenix now longer than he’s actually been here, so I think that emotional side of it is long gone.  It’s always a fun game against (Phoenix),'' Nowitzki continued. "Steve coming home here to Dallas, he’s always plays well here.  We’ve got to make sure we get back and take their transition (game) away, and then kind of force them into a half-court game.''

Just like the Golden State game, the Mavericks will leave the option open to go small.  They would prefer to use their size but they are prepared to go the other way.  Ian Mahinmi could be an option with his energy and length as well.  This will be a strong test in the Mavericks' collective mindset, focus on your game and not the opponent's game.  The temptation will be there to go into street-ball mode and play windshield wiper basketball.  The Mavericks have placed an emphasis on defense, tonight is the night to have it tested.