Minus Dirk Nowitzki, Mavs tame Bobcats in Jose Calderon’s debut

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Despite welcoming their starting point guard into the lineup for the first time this preseason, the Dallas Mavericks still would take the court without their first unit intact Saturday night against the Charlotte Bobcats in Greensboro, N.C.

With eight-year veteran Jose Calderon set to make his preseason debut after missing the team’s first four exhibition games due to a strained left hamstring, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle entered Greensboro Coliseum Complex content not to use the team’s fifth outing as a dress rehearsal for the upcoming season. Instead, Carlisle continued a trend of resting his older veterans, sitting 11-time All-Star power forward Dirk Nowitzki for a scheduled day off.

And even without Nowitzki in the lineup, the Mavericks (3-2) would have no problem taming the Bobcats (3-3) while making Calderon’s debut a successful one following an 89-83 win.

“It was good. It was a great feeling out there,” Calderon said after putting on a Mavs jersey for the first time. “I’m just trying to figure out my teammates a little bit, but I felt good. … That’s it. It’s done. Now, we’ve got to put it behind us and forget about the debut of Jose Calderon.”

Minus his go-to scorer, Carlisle rolled out a starting lineup of Calderon, 2-guard Monta Ellis, second-year standout Jae Crowder, four-time All-Star Shawn Marion and center Samuel Dalembert. Calderon would then get right to work, engineering the Mavs to a 6-0 lead out of the gate.

Still, despite the 32-year-old point guard’s five quick points and three assists in the opening period, the Mavs found themselves tied at 23-all after one.

“[Calderon] looked good. He’s trying to get his legs under him still, but for the most part everybody was communicating well and it didn’t look bad at all,” Marion said of his new teammate’s first start.

“It was great. Maybe at the beginning it was a little bit more rusty than usual, but at the end of the second quarter and the beginning of the third quarter it was great. We were moving the ball and getting the ball to the guy we wanted, and for the first game I’m pretty happy,” Calderon later added.

After taking Wednesday night’s 92-85 win in Indiana off to rest, a refreshed sixth man Vince Carter took over the scoring responsibilities from Marion early in the second stanza. Rookie lead guard Gal Mekel took it from there, converting back-to-back scores to put the Mavs up 30-29 with 8:44 remaining in the half.

Calderon then returned to the floor and converted all three free throws after getting fouled by Bobcats guard Kemba Walker while shooting a trey, before Carter created more separation on the scoreboard with his third 3-pointer of the first half. Ellis’ perimeter defense and five first-half steals then helped the Mavs slide into the halftime intermission with a 50-37 advantage under their belt following an 18-2 run.

Led by 13 points apiece for Calderon and Carter on a combined 8-of-13 shooting and 5-of-8 from behind the 3-point arc, the Mavericks jumped out to the double-digit margin despite getting outshot through two quarters, 45.7 percent to 40.9 percent. Charlotte also held a 21-20 edge on the glass, but couldn’t overcome their 14 first-half turnovers compared to just six giveaways for the visiting Mavs.

Following his stellar play in the first 24 minutes, Carter got the start over Crowder to open the second half. Meanwhile, after an 18-point, 11-rebound effort in Indiana, Marion took the lead for the Mavs to open the third period.

But Carlisle would soon rest his main contributors as the Mavs escaped into the fourth quarter with a 69-61 advantage in hand following a jumper by Wayne Ellington to close the third.

With the Bobcats refusing to go away, Mekel jumped back into the action to make it a 74-63 score early in the fourth. Ellington then connected on another triple to move into double figures while extending the Dallas lead to 85-69 with 7:08 left to play.

Crowder and veteran Renaldo Balkman then put the finishing touches on the Mavs’ win with late scores in the final moments.

Finishing with 13 points on 3-of-6 shooting and 2-of-3 from behind the arc, Calderon showed a glimpse into what Mavs fans can expect this season while dishing out five assists and surrendering zero turnovers in his 21 minutes.

“I thought he did a great job,” Carlisle said of Calderon’s performance. “All things considered, if you look at the amount of time he’s been out and everything, he had a good rhythm. I thought he played hard within the system, he hit open shots, and he had a presence as a leader out here.”

“I wasn’t tired or anything like that. I felt good and I felt ready,” Calderon added. “I just need some time to get everybody in the right positions and get the ball to them, but it was good for the first game. I was comfortable out there.”

Marion added 13 points on 6-of-11 from the field and eight rebounds in 23 minutes of work while Carter pitched in 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting off the bench. Ellington pitched in 12 points in a reserve role and Balkman made it five Mavs in double figures with 10 points of his own.

Rookie Cody Zeller led four Bobcats in double figures with 14 points and 10 rebounds. The Bobcats also outshot the Mavs on the night, 42.6 percent to 41.2 percent, in addition to a 46-38 rebounding margin. The Mavericks, however, converted the Bobcats’ 24 turnovers into 27 points while surrendering just 15 giveaways of their own.

“Look, shot making comes and goes. We know that. On nights like that, whether it’s an individual or the team, we’ve got to keep getting stops. Tonight, we did a good job. We held them under 43 percent, which was a winning number. … It’s a game that involves a lot of different components,” Carlisle concluded.

Note: The Mavericks return to action Monday night on the road in Houston for a matchup against the Southwest Division rival Rockets. The game will tip off at 7 p.m. CT, airing locally on TXA 21.

The team returns to American Airlines Center Oct. 23 against the Atlanta Hawks. 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.com.