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Shootaround: Rick Carlisle

Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle weighs in on Dirk's ejection against the Rockets, Monta Ellis' performance throughout the preseason and more.

DALLAS — While the 2013-14 Dallas Mavericks admit that they are still very much a work in progress, the team enters its final two preseason contests with plenty to build upon following six exhibition outings.

Monday night, the Mavericks (3-3) took the court for the first time with their projected starting lineup of point guard Jose Calderon, 2-guard Monta Ellis, small forward Shawn Marion, 11-time All-Star power forward Dirk Nowitzki and center Samuel Dalembert. And although the first unit would only play together into the third quarter before falling to a 100-95 road defeat in Houston, there were still plenty of positives to take away from the loss.

“We did good. We did some good stuff and some bad stuff, but for the first time I think we’ve got to be positive,” Calderon said after leading the Mavs with 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting in the loss. “[The Rockets] are a pretty good team. They run up and down and they’ve got a lot of good 3-point shooters, so we had some problems with that. But I think we were moving the ball and finding the open guy. The first and third quarters were good, so I think we’ve just got to keep working. I think it was good for the first time.”

“We’ve got to get the most minutes together that we can to get chemistry, to get flow and to get our defensive posture where it needs to be,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle added. “I mean, that’s going to be one of our big goals this year, to be better defensively.”

Two nights later, as the Mavs get set to face an Atlanta team on the second night of a back-to-back following a 107-89 home loss to Indiana, the Dallas squad will try to continue to progress while eyeing the season opener in exactly a week against the same Hawks (1-5) squad. But, with the first unit set to step on its home hardwood for the first time intact, the Mavericks know that they will have to improve upon several key shortcomings against the Rockets in order to get a victory in front of the American Airlines Center faithful.

The Dallas defense was torched Monday night from the perimeter as the Rockets connected on 13-of-28 shooting from 3-point range. And despite forcing Houston into 23 turnovers and converting them into 22 points at the other end of the court while holding their opponent to just 41.7 percent shooting from the field, the Mavs’ ultimate downfall would come on the glass while losing the rebounding battle, 54-42.

“We did some good things, but we’ve got to get better in some areas,” Carlisle confessed after the loss. “[Houston] is the best team we’ve seen in person by far, and we’ve seen some good teams. … This is going to be one of the top teams in the league. I thought we did some good things. We adjusted to things that they were doing, we took some of the threes away in the second half, we scrambled pretty well, but there’s some areas we’ve just got to get better.”

The Mavs will try to clean those areas up while getting a sneak peak into what they will face come Opening Night, although Atlanta is expected to be without All-Star big man Al Horford (hamstring) and new addition Paul Millsap (achilles).

Note: The Mavericks return to American Airlines Center Wednesday night against the Atlanta Hawks. The game will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS (6287) or by visiting Mavs.com.

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