The Mavericks need to rebound in every sense of the word.
They gave thanks for so many things on Thursday, then hopped on their plane and headed to Phoenix, which has been a decidedly unthankful place for the Mavericks to be in recent times.
They lost both visits to the Valley of the Sun last season, including a game in December when they had rolled to a 15-11 record and were surprisingly in the thick of the standings.
That loss to the Suns triggered a six-game losing streak and the Mavericks went 18-38 the rest of the way.
They have lost four of their last five visits to Phoenix, and the Suns haven’t exactly been world-beaters against everybody else in that span.
So the Mavs have to rebound from that recent history.
“Listen, it’s a great opportunity,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “Phoenix is much improved. They have more toughness, hard playing guys. They’re hungry. That’s a really good test for us.
“We have not played well in Phoenix the last four years. So that’s a challenge.”
In addition, the Mavericks must rebound from the 114-99 loss at home on Tuesday against the LA Clippers.
But mostly, the Mavericks must rebound, period. They have been a better rebounding team this season, and if they needed affirmation of just how important that fact is, the Clippers gave it to them Tuesday.
Boy, did they give it to them.
The Mavericks got trounced on the boards, losing the rebounding game 56-46. Worse, they gave up 17 offensive rebounds. This came after coach Carlisle commended the Mavericks’ rebounding this season and emphasized just how critical it has been to their hot start.
So was the Clipper game just a one-time hiccup?
“That’s the hope,” Carlisle said. “It was a physical game with a great rebounding team. You can have a night like that.
“We don’t like having games like that. The 13 offensive rebounds in the first half really made it tough. You got to do it from start to finish, which we did against Houston but didn’t against the Clippers. We’ll point toward Friday and go from there.”
There was no getting around the fact that the Mavericks did not rebound or protect the basketball well enough against the Clippers, who of course had a little something to say about those problems.
“The combination of rebounding and turnover management is such a big deal,” Carlisle said. “Many of these games come down to one possession. If you get one more rebound and one less turnover, that’s two more possessions, that’s huge.”
The loss to the Raptors did not come down to a final possession. That’s largely because the Mavericks didn’t have enough possessions. In addition to the rebounding deficit, they also committed 20 turnovers.
The Mavericks had averaged just 10 turnovers over the previous seven games. The 20 giveaways were the second most of the season. They had 22 against the Lakers on Nov. 1.
Hmmm. Maybe it’s an LA thing.
“The first half was very difficult, very frustrating,” Carlisle said. “We didn’t play well. We had some good shots, but we gave up 13 offensive rebounds and we just didn’t play the way we needed to.”
The Mavericks are opening a tough stretch in Phoenix. Of the 16 games remaining before New Year’s Day, 10 will be on the road.
The Mavericks will learn from the Clippers’ debacle. They got outmuscled in a lot of ways. If that manifests itself in a nastier demeanor on the court, it will have been worth it.
“Rebounding has improved,” Carlisle said of the big picture. “KP (Kristaps Porzingis) certainly helps us there. Our perimeter guys are rebounding better.
“We have goals each night for our perimeter guys. We feel like they need to get 22 to 24 rebounds to give us our best chance to win. It’s got to come from all levels of the roster. With so many threes being taken, the balls that miss now are flying out. A lot of times they fly right over the heads of the guys playing the four and five positions. And so, perimeter guys got to really (get) the ball.”
So are the perimeter guys meeting those goals?
“We’re doing OK,” he said. “Some nights better than others. I think we’re slightly a plus. Two rebounds ahead (of opponents, per game). We’re doing better than last year. We’re going to keep stressing it.”
And hope the Clippers’ disappointment doesn’t get repeated.