This might not seem like a surprise, but winning games is a heck of a lot easier when you don’t dig yourself a hole in the early goings.

That was the message from Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle yesterday when discussing whether to play Chandler Parsons early in games or late in them as the small forward plays under a minutes restriction and continues to work his way back to full health.

The logic is sound to play Parsons in the second half. As one of the Mavs’ best offensive players, his skills are potentially most valuable late in games when the team needs a bucket.

But at the same time, it’s important to set the tone early in the game, too.

“There’s no greater indicator for success in this league than having strong first quarters, especially at home,” Carlisle said. “So if we want to play our best, a stronger start is gonna go a lot longer way than trying to move the pieces around in terms of the lineup.”

First-quarter success was certainly a harbinger of things to come last season. Dallas was just 15-21 overall when trailing after the opening frame, according to Basketball-Reference, and 35-11 when tied or leading. When playing inside American Airlines Center, the Mavs were 9-11 when trailing after one and 18-3 when leading. It’s pretty clear what the goal is at home: Establish the tone early.

Unfortunately, the Mavericks weren’t able to do that against Toronto, as even though Parsons played very well in the opening minutes, the Raptors were still able to piece a run together and take a 31-25 advantage heading into the second quarter.

Against Charlotte tonight, Carlisle is placing the onus on his team to get off to a better start and play the rest of the game the way Dallas wants to, rather than playing catch-up all night. Look for the Mavs to try imposing their will sooner rather than later. If they’re successful, odds are they’ll move to 3-2.

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