DALLAS — It proved to be their demise Wednesday during a 125-122 defeat to the defending champion Golden State Warriors. It struck again two nights later in a 127-124 loss to the Chicago Bulls. Now, after another lackluster beginning to Sunday’s 100-96 loss to New York, the Dallas Mavericks hope to address their sluggish starts prior to Tuesday’s matchup against Orlando.
Surrendering 25 combined points to the duo of two-time MVP Stephen Curry and reigning NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant in the first quarter, the Mavericks (13-28) trailed 35-26 after the opening period of Wednesday’s loss. The Mavs again put themselves in an uphill climb during Friday’s contest against Chicago, allowing the Bulls to make their first eight shots from the field and sliding into a 13-point deficit before trailing 34-28 entering the second stanza. Sunday, the Mavericks’ slow starts again caught up with them after ending the first period down 33-25. And despite seeing his team make valiant comebacks in all three of those games, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle knows the start to Tuesday’s matchup must be better in order to avoid a winless homestand.
“It’s really the same old story. It’s an early hole, it’s a late rally, and then coming up short. The bottom line is we’ve got to be better early in games,” Carlisle confessed after Sunday’s loss.
“We’ve just got to defend better early in games. That’s where we are,” the coach matter-of-factly added.
The Mavericks’ early defensive struggles certainly were their demise Sunday evening, allowing the Knicks to make 14 of their 19 shots in the opening quarter. All told, the Mavs are giving up 34 points per outing and allowing 65 percent shooting in the first period during the first three games of their current homestand. That must change if the Mavericks hope to end their three-game skid Tuesday night. But as 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki also points out, the Mavs can’t afford to ease into Tuesday’s game if they hope to collect a win.
“We’re just giving up too many points, really. It was the same with Chicago,” Nowitzki admitted after another slow start on Sunday. “[The Bulls] started off 8 for 8, and that’s tough. It was the same (Sunday night). They scored 33 (points) the first quarter and shot like 75 percent. We’re not good enough to ease into the game. We’ve got to be on all the time and play a little harder from the get-go.”
Entering their homestand with a four-game win streak after three straight victories on the road, the Mavericks are admittedly struggling to rekindle that success. The lengthy win streak may have also masked the team’s defensive issues after averaging 110 points during the four-game stretch. Now, the Mavericks hope to bring their defensive intensity up to the level of their offensive success. And with the Magic currently ranked 16th in the league while averaging 105.1 points per game, the Dallas defense will have a golden opportunity to carry the Mavs to a much-needed win.
“We might have gotten a little too relaxed with our winning streak,” rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. candidly said. “We’re not coming out with enough intensity on both ends of the court.”
Note: The Mavericks will now conclude their homestand on Tuesday at American Airlines Center against the Orlando Magic. The game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest and 103.3 FM ESPN. The game will also air in Spanish on KFLC AM 1270. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting Mavs.com, or by calling (214) 747-MAVS.
Dorian Finney-Smith (left knee quadriceps tendinitis) — out
Seth Curry (stress reaction, left tibia) — out
Nerlens Noel (left thumb surgery) — out