Practice Report: Rick Carlisle

Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle gives an update on the status of Wes Matthews and previews his team's upcoming matchups with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Though the star power of Luka Doncic and Russell Westbrook is the main attraction, and the uncertainty of Paul George’s and Wesley Matthews’ status creates an air of mystery, the real focus ahead of the Mavs’ upcoming home-and-home series against the Oklahoma City Thunder lies within five feet of the rim.

Basketball games can be won and lost on the boards. This season, the Mavericks rank fifth in the NBA in defensive rebound percentage, which measures the percentage of available rebounds a team pulls down. Thanks in large part to DeAndre Jordan, Dallas has become a force on the defensive glass. However, in Friday’s 114-112 loss at New Orleans, the Pelicans were able to turn 20 offensive rebounds into 30 second-chance points, the most the Mavericks have surrendered all season long.

The second-most they’ve allowed is 24 points, which came against — you guessed it — the Thunder, back on Nov. 10. Anthony Davis and Julius Randle only play for one team, which is good news, but the bad news is OKC ranks even better on the offensive glass than New Orleans. Led by Steven Adams’s 4.9 offensive boards per game, the Thunder pull down 31.5 percent of all available offensive rebounds, which ties for the league lead. The Pelicans, meanwhile, rank fifth, so Dallas is moving quickly from one serious threat to another.

“On paper, Oklahoma City’s an even better offensive rebounding team than New Orleans is,” Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle said. “The challenge is gonna be there. It’s gonna be very similar to (Friday) against New Orleans.”

Typically we think of rebounding as a battle on the inside between the two biggest players on the floor, but Carlisle said the key to attempting to slow down OKC’s offensive rebounding game is to play strong perimeter defense against Westbrook and George, limiting their drives and the ensuing chaos they can create. It’s a true team effort.

“They get you scrambled up with great perimeter players that cause rotations, and then Adams takes advantage of those scrambles a lot of times on the boards,” Carlisle said. “We’ve got to do a good job at the point of attack on the perimeter, and we’ve gotta go get it when it’s in the air.”

Practice Report: Maxi Kleber

Mavs forward Maxi Kleber evaluates his play in the starting lineup the last two games and previews their matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

One possible way to counter strong offensive rebounding is to put more size on the floor. Wesley Matthews’s absence on Friday night opened a spot in the starting lineup for Maxi Kleber, who earned his second start of the season. Across the two games against New Orleans, have combined to record 17 points, six boards, and eight blocks. Carlisle considers Matthews day-to-day, so the veteran wing’s availability for Sunday is uncertain at this point, meaning Kleber could once again receive the starting nod, though nothing is set in stone of course.

“For me, it’s not really about starting or coming off the bench,” Kleber said. “It’s about what you do when you’re on the court, and doing the right thing. I know Rick is going to have an idea of what he’s going to do, and it’s going to be the right thing.”

As for dealing with Adams, Kleber presented two possible solutions. Primarily, he and DeAndre Jordan will rely on their teammates to help out when they can.

“It’s gonna be a tough job for the big guys to box out, and it has to be the guards coming in and helping us, because those are big bodies who are going for the rebounds every time. Every game, we’ve got to battle on the boards, but especially against these last two teams now we’ve played, we have to do a better job.”

The other solution, Kleber said, was to pump some iron.

“I’m going back there now and doing some weights, putting om some muscle,” he laughed.

All jokes aside, Kleber and the Mavericks understand the challenge at hand on Sunday and Monday against OKC. Offensive rebounds typically lead to points in the paint, and too many of those have spelled trouble for Dallas this season — the Mavs are 0-7 when opponents score at least 60 paint points against them. The first time the Mavs and Thunder met, Dallas limited Oklahoma City to just 48 points in the paint and cruised to a 111-96 victory. Westbrook missed that game, however, and the former MVP’s presence obviously matters quite a bit.

Still, with or without Westbrook, and with or without George, the Mavericks understand where these next two games could very well be won: on the glass.

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