DALLAS — While it appears the Dallas Mavericks may have turned a corner defensively over the last two games, the team and coach Rick Carlisle are well ware that they face a far greater challenge Friday night in Miami to begin a back-to-back in the state of Florida.
After utilizing their best defensive effort of the season to claim Saturday’s 91-83 victory in Milwaukee, the Mavericks (5-3) continued to rely on their defense to contain former No. 1 overall pick John Wall, second-year standout Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards while collecting Tuesday night’s 105-95 home win. Now, however, a much more daunting task looms on Friday night, when the Mavs will try to corral the two-time defending champion Heat’s Big Three of four-time MVP LeBron James, 2006 Finals MVP Dwyane Wade and perennial All-Star big man Chris Bosh.
“Well, we’ve been tied together and our attention to detail has been good, and we’ve held teams under 100,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said of the last two defensive performances. “On the nights when we can do that we’re going to greatly increase our chances for winning.
“Every team in this league now has some kind of major problem. If it isn’t Wall going in transition coast to coast or Beal lighting you up from the perimeter, you know, it’s going to be James and Wade causing problems and Bosh hanging around making open jump shots. And so there’s always going to be challenges. The important thing is that we’re tied together, that our attention to detail is keen, and that we’re always in a scrambling mode trying to outplay the other opponent. It sounds simple, but this year a lot of what this league is going to be about is wanting it more.”
Against the likes of James, Wade and Bosh, the Mavs hope to continue to rely on a steadily improving defense. That might be easier said than done, however, as the league’s 24th-ranked scoring defense takes on the Heat’s offense, which is averaging a league-best 28.1 assists as a team and tied with the Mavericks while averaging the second-best scoring output at 106.8 points a night.
Still, with their last two outings serving as a winning blueprint, the Mavs hope to out-hustle the star-studded Heat (5-3) while collecting a second road victory of the season.
“We’re getting better each and every game,” sixth man Vince Carter said of the defensive execution. “Our rotations are better. Our individual defense has been better. But just more than anything our help side and our team defense has been better, and it’s fueled our offense.”
“It’s a work in progress night in and night out,” 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki added. “I think we’ve got to get better in our coverages, like I’ve been saying. If you look at the league now, there’s not a lot of post-ups and a lot of (iso plays) anymore. It’s 80 to 100 pick-and-rolls, and every team runs multiple pick-and-rolls now in a possession. So it really comes down to your pick-and-roll coverages, and players are so good in this league that you’re going to make some mistakes. You’re going to give up some baskets, but you know, we’ve got to scramble and we’ve got to be on the same page defensively, so we’re working on it. We’ve had good quarters, we’ve had some good halves, but we’ve also had some bad halves. We gave up in the first quarter way too many points yesterday, so we’ve got to be better, especially to start the game.”
Note: The Mavericks will now head back out on the road, beginning a Florida back-to-back in Miami on Friday night against the two-time defending champion Heat. The game will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest at 6:30 p.m.
The Mavs return home next Tuesday night against rookie Michael Carter-Williams and the Philadelphia 76ers. The game will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS (6287) or by visiting Mavs.com.