DALLAS — Relying on depth this season, the Dallas Mavericks silenced many of their critics and made up for their deficiencies.
With five different scorers averaging in double figures, the Mavericks shared the wealth by dishing out the sixth-most assists per game in the NBA this season at 23.6 an outing. The Mavs’ reserves also finished among the league leaders, posting the sixth-most points by a bench at 35.7 a game and helping Dallas’ offense flourish with the eighth-highest scoring output in the league at 104.8 points a contest.
Still, the shared responsibilities extended to more than just offensive production, according to Mavs coach Rick Carlisle.
“We’ve got to be a strength-in-numbers outfit here,” Carlisle explained during the season. “We need our bench to give us intensity, persistence and scoring. But it’s not all about those guys putting points on the board. You know, they’ve got to play hard and at full capacity within our defensive system and rebound. … We need contributions from everybody, and (this season) we got a depth of contribution from everybody.
“It’s a hard league and it’s the best basketball in the world,” the coach added. “You know, NBA basketball is supposed to be hard, and so we’ve got to really always recognize what the strength of our team is and that is doing things together. You know, our defense is going to be predicated on showing people an early crowd, because we don’t have a ton of great individual defenders. Our rebounding has got to come from everybody blocking out and then somebody getting the ball. We can’t have any links in the chain that aren’t firing at the highest level, otherwise we’re going to lose on a possession.”
Without a collection of defensive stoppers, Carlisle and the Mavericks used their depth and versatility to their advantage this year while returning to the playoffs for a 13th time in the last 14 seasons.
Allowing 102.4 points a game, the Dallas defense finished ranked 20th in the league this regular season. The Mavs also sat near the bottom of the league in rebounding, pulling down just 40.9 boards a game to rank 26th. Still, the team remained competitive as its depth and Carlisle’s creativity came through during the Mavs’ first-round playoff series against the Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs, pushing all the right buttons before falling in seven games to the top-seeded squad.
“Rick did a great job with his game plan,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said with a great amount of respect for his counterpart following the series. “His coaching confounded us. The players were great. It is a really good veteran team that was playing its best basketball here at the end of the year. I congratulate them. They were really tough and really good. The organization should be really proud of that group in a lot of ways. …Rick Carlisle is one of the most clever guys around, and trying to follow all of his stuff is really difficult. That was the toughest part for us, in addition to them playing so well.”
“With a group of a lot of new guys, guys came together in relatively short order and we had a very positive run,” Carlisle added. “You know, I thought the last month of the season was a lot of big games just to qualify for the playoffs and put ourselves in a position to compete hard in this series. And you know, the last game was disappointing, but I just love the way the team battled all year long. So, we’ll work to try to keep the team together the best that we can, and from there we’ll try to make the team better any other way that we see fit.”