Ever since the great Snowmageddon of 2021, the Mavericks have been melting the layers off their reputation as a score-first and ask questions later team.
Defense has been fashionable, even if it wasn’t on display Tuesday in the blowout loss at Memphis.
Despite that stumble, the Mavericks have put up the numbers that prove they have embraced the importance of putting up some resistance.
Since returning from the blizzard that shut down Texas in mid-February, the Mavericks have limited opponents to 45.4 percent shooting and 108 points per game.
It’s no coincidence that they have gone 27-13 in that span.
Defense is hard to quantify numerically, though. It’s as much an attitude as it is anything else. And the Mavericks have had it for the last three months.
For the season, their defensive rating, which was in the 20s earlier in the season, has crept up to where they went into Tuesday’s game at Memphis 16th in overall defensive rating in the NBA.
“I know we’ve improved,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “(But beyond the numbers) I think a more accurate way to characterize our defense is we’ve shown the ability to be very, very good. We haven’t been consistently very, very good, obviously. The ratings will bear that out. But we are a more capable defensive team this year. With four games left, we’ve got to continue to build on that.”
Their defense has been even better lately. They are sixth in defensive rating over the past 12 games, a primary reason they are 10-2 in that span.
Part of the resurgence has been the simple fact that the Mavericks have had their best defenders on the floor. Dorian Finney-Smith, Josh Richardson and Maxi Kleber all missed time before the snow-out because of COVID-19 issues.
“One of the real challenges this year has been the guys in and out of the lineup, a period where we had three or four of our best defenders out for two weeks,” Carlisle said. “It chips away at your ability to build continuously. Everybody has the same issues.
“We’ve just got to recognize where we are and the solution to big problems or big challenges usually comes in small steps. So there’s a lot of little things we can do to get our defense better and get our offense better, too.”
Redick sidelined: Sharpshooting guard J.J. Redick limped off the court early in the second quarter against Memphis and did not return.
The 6-3 guard was defending a Memphis drive to the basket and came down favoring his right leg. Redick missed substantial time earlier this season while with New Orleans and in his early time with the Mavericks with right heel/Achilles issues.
“It’s been a good-days, bad-days type of situation,” Carlisle said after the game. “What happened in tonight’s game, he left and was not going to be able to return. We’ll monitor it on a day-to-day basis. He will not play tomorrow. I’m certain of that.
“Beyond that, we’ll have to see how he responds to treatment. He’s been going through this for a while. He knows his body, but I haven’t talked to him. Really, the next morning is a lot of how this stuff goes. But it was not good to see, that’s for sure.”
Redick has played 13 games with the Mavericks this season and has shot 39.5 percent from 3-point range.
Looking ahead: The Mavericks hope that they have a lot of basketball left to play this season, but Kristaps Porzingis – while eager to contribute starting Wednesday night against New Orleans – is looking forward to something he didn’t have much of last year.
Porzingis had to have a quickly scheduled meniscus surgery and recovery time that leaked into the season. It was not the way he’d hoped to prepare for this season.
“I look forward to this offseason, really because it’s been a tough year for me,” said Porzingis, who is expected to return after missing seven games with right knee soreness. “The injury happened in the bubble. No offseason. I did the surgery a little later . . . expecting the season was going to start in (2021). So I started the season late. Didn’t have an offseason, didn’t have any preseason games, practices with the team.
“It’s not easy, especially with the condensed schedule. It’s been a tough year from that aspect.”
It’s possible that those variables have played a part in Porzingis fighting various ailments through the season. He’s played 40 of 69 games so far.
But he said he doesn’t consider himself to be snakebit when it comes to injuries. And he doesn’t think being 7-3 makes things different for him than any other player.
“I am mobile for my height. I don’t know if there have been players like that in the past. Maybe from that aspect I’m a little different. But with a good offseason, working on my movements, I’ll be healthy and be able to stay healthy for a long time, which is something I expect for myself.”
The Mavericks are just happy that Porzingis is going to get back on the court with three games to knock off some rust before the postseason begins.
“He’s a big part of what we do,” said Jalen Brunson. “I think the chemistry’s there. I just think he has to get these couple of games in and get mentally and physically prepared. There’s getting in shape. And there’s game shape. He’ll be ready to go.”
The gift that keeps on giving: The Mavericks had a season high 33 assists on Sunday when they overwhelmed Cleveland 124-97.
Carlisle said it’s always a good thing when the ball is moving and players are sharing the wealth – plus improving confidence in themselves and each other.
“I think it brightens everyone’s mood,” he said. “When the ball has energy, the team has greater energy. It’s just a fact, a byproduct of more guys touching it. The fact that we had a season-high assists is a pretty good sign.
“And when you’re moving it better and getting good shots, generally speaking your defense is going to be better. It’s a win-win situation.”
Carlisle said good ball movement has an added advantage, too. It makes a team more unpredictable on offense, which is invaluable, particularly in the playoffs when teams can zero on in on one opponent and knows all their plays by heart.
Share and comment