Mavs’ December defensive execution equalling success

Practice Report: Rick Carlisle

Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle weighs in on former assistant coach Dwane Casey's success in Toronto, how the two teams matchup in anticipation of Friday's contest, Samuel Dalembert's play despite incon

DALLAS — With a renewed focus on the defensive end of the floor, the Dallas Mavericks have began the month of December looking to position themselves in the ever-changing Western Conference.

The Mavericks (15-10) are allowing just 96.6 points per game through seven matchups this month, sprinting to a 5-2 mark in that span. And after seizing a 105-91 victory Wednesday over the Memphis Grizzlies and holding their Southwest Division rival to just 39.8 percent shooting, defense continued to top Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle’s list of priorities as his team turned its attention to the Toronto Raptors.

“In the month of December we’ve been better defensively, and our goal is to stay on that track,” Carlisle said Thursday after the Mavs’ team practice. “We’ve spent the majority of our practice time on defense. We know how important it is, and we’re just going to be vigilant about it. It’s not something that you can take days off from. You can’t take days off from the mental edge aspect of it, and we know that. We’re going to have to continue to work at it, and you know, our rebounding is going to have to be better this game than it was last night. You know, Memphis is a great rebounding team. Toronto is also a plus team, in terms of what they get compared to the opponent, and so going to get the ball when it’s in the air is key.”

Still, while ranking 21st in the NBA in points allowed at 101.2 points an outing and 24th in rebounding with 41 boards a game, the Mavericks admit that they have much more work to do in order to become the defensive team they hope to be by season’s end.

Despite losing the rebounding battle to the Grizzlies, 43-42, and allowing the Memphis team to collect 22 offensive boards, the Mavericks still managed to improve to 10-2 this season when holding opponents below 100 points. That will again be the Mavs’ goal Friday night against the Raptors (9-14), as the Mavs put their 11-2 record at American Airlines Center on the line while concluding a three-game homestand.

“I think it’s more so a mentality and just what we’re trying to do,” sixth man Vince Carter explained. “I think guys are more so on the same page, and we’ve added some more pieces. … I think more than anything guys are getting a chance to focus in on what we want to do and what we need to get better, and I think it’s really helping us.”

Note: The Mavericks will now conclude their three-game homestand Friday night against the Toronto Raptors. 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.