The Mavericks have the sizzle. Their offense, even when it’s been off for four-plus months, is really potent.
What coach Rick Carlisle is waiting to see is if the defense can find a similar degree of success as the NBA season restarts next week.
The Mavericks went through their first scrimmage on the Disney campus, defeating the Los Angeles Lakers 108-104 Thursday night. As usual, they didn’t have any trouble scoring in the 40-minute game.
But it’s important to note that they surrendered 55 points to LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Lakers in the first half. The LA stars did not play after halftime.
So what’s Carlisle looking for at the defensive end of the floor?
“The statistics and the rank in the league kind of tell the story of defense,” he said. “We want to be a better team protecting the rim. We still want to be effective at protecting the 3-point line. It’s hard to do both.
“The last few years, we have not done a great job of defending the 3-point line. But right now, the rim has got to be a priority. We’re a good defensive team. I don’t think we’re bad. We’re ranked about average – and we got to be above average and work to get into top 10 to be one of those teams that’s really in the hunt.”
The Lakers are a perfect example of what it means to be a solid team at both ends of the court. They rank in the top five both offensively and defensively in the league when it comes to efficiency.
The Lakers shot 63.3 percent from the field in the first half. In the second half, that number came way down. And the Mavericks used their superior depth to pull out the win.
Still, their level of defense will be something to keep a close eye on when the seeding games begin next week and headed into the playoffs next month.
Minor scare: Luka Doncic, who had a very effective first half, left the court in the third quarter and retreated to the locker-room area, followed by Mavericks’ medical staffers.
It proved to be nothing major. Doncic said after the game that he merely retreated to a back room to do his postgame stretching.
“And,” as Carlisle said, “he was about at his minutes limit for tonight, anyway.”
Doncic finished with 14 points, six assists and five rebounds in 17 minutes.
“I think we played great offensively,” the point guard said. “We got a lot of weapons. We still got our chemistry. We’re still building on that.”
Strange scene: It was the first time ever that the Mavericks played a game in their uniforms without a single fan in attendance.
“It’s different, but it’s really cool,” Carlisle said. “I keep saying this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. And I love it. The creativity involved in this, I don’t think they utilized the visual boards the way they will once the real games start in terms of home fan noise and those kind of things.
“There’s more tricks in the NBA’s bag as we move forward.”
Added Seth Curry, who had a game-high 23 points on perfect 8-for-8 shooting (6-for-6 from 3-land): “It was weird, totally weird coming out.”
Briefly: Carlisle said there will be plenty of things to work on when the Mavericks return to practice Friday. “Two areas that hurt us,” he said. “We had a lot of turnovers and we fouled too much. Those are two areas we’ll look to improve going into Indiana.” The Mavericks scrimmage against the Pacers on Sunday at 3 p.m . . . Carlisle ran into former Maverick Wesley Matthews, now with the Bucks, before Thursday’s game. Milwaukee had played at the same gym before the Mavs and Lakers. “We were talking about the sight lines, the atmosphere,” Carlisle said. “He said it was different. But that it was great to be back on the floor. One of the things I saw last night was that, because there’s so much space between the sideline and the benches, a lot of guys were stepping out of bounds because they weren’t quite used to the depth perception. So we’ll keep an eye on that.”