Aside from Dirk Nowitzki’s peculiar ejection, another rarity took place in Houston last night. The Mavericks accomplished something against the Rockets that the team has not done for at least 28 years.
Dallas recorded 13 steals and 12 blocks in Monday night’s 100-95 preseason loss to the Rockets. According to Basketball-Reference.com, that’s the only time the Mavericks have achieved those numbers in the same game since at least 1985-86, which is as far back as the site’s database goes. The Mavericks began playing in 1980.
Nowitzki led the Mavericks in blocks with four, a number he’s totaled only four times in the past two seasons. Sure, last night’s game was an exhibition, but there was nothing lazy about the Mavs’ defensive effort. Nowitzki, chasing block No. 5, was ejected after committing a hard foul on Houston’s Omri Casspi, a foul which was considered a flagrant two. Samuel Dalembert added three blocks, and nine Mavericks contributed a steal.
The aggressive defensive effort is part of head coach Rick Carlisle’s overall plan for the Mavs this season. Carlisle has stressed defense again and again throughout all of training camp and the preseason, beginning with his first address at Mavs Media Day on Sept. 30.
“What we’re gonna have to do is rebuild our system with nine new guys,” Carlisle said. “Showing a lot of early help, taking pride in guarding your guy one-on-one as much as you can, and then we’re going to have to get the ball when it’s in the air.”
The largest criticism analysts around the country have given against the Mavericks’ defense is aimed at the perimeter, where guards Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis are more well-known for their stellar offensive ability than their defensive prowess. Dalembert will be especially important in protecting the rim in case breakdowns do occur.
“We don’t have any first, or second-team All-Defense guys on our team, so we have to do it collectively,” Carlisle said at Media Day. “We have to establish a covenant that it’s going to be important, and I’ve got to have the stomach to make sure that guys are doing the things to sacrifice to put us in a position to be a lot better than we were last year.”
Dallas forced 23 Rockets turnovers Monday night and the previous four Mavs opponents have turned it over an average of 22.5 times per game, so it appears the hard work is beginning to pay off.