Practice Report: Dirk Nowitzki
Mavs F Dirk Nowitzki says he's feeling better and looks forward to playing tomorrow night against the Jazz.
DALLAS — Beginning the season playing two of the first three games minus their leading scorer from last year, the Dallas Mavericks hope that they can draw inspiration from the possible return of 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki to the lineup when they step back on the court Wednesday night in Utah.
Forced to miss time due to an illness, Nowitzki sat out the team’s home opener last Friday night against Houston for the first time since the 2012-13 season. Nowitzki was then a late scratch Sunday in Houston as the home-and-home series wrapped up, despite going through the team’s morning shootaround. And although the Mavericks (0-3) have gotten off to a sluggish start to the season, coach Rick Carlisle fully expects the team to turn things around once Nowitzki is back to 100 percent.
“We’re up against it right now in a lot of ways, but no one is backing down from their will to compete,” Carlisle confessed after the Mavs’ heartbreaking 93-92 loss Sunday in Houston. “We’ve just got to stay the course with this and just keep making small corrections. We’ve just got to find a way.”
Unable to make up for Nowitzki’s offensive production during their last two games, the Mavericks have compounded matters with lackluster defensive performances. That said, the Mavs know they must be better at the defensive end of the floor with or without Nowitzki in the lineup on Wednesday.
Sunday, the Mavericks trailed 63-53 at the end of the first half, entering the intermission allowing the Rockets to connect on 55.6 percent shooting through two quarters. Houston also held a 22-18 rebounding edge and 32-24 advantage in the paint, taking advantage of the Dallas defense in the interior. The Rockets then finished the game just slightly outshooting the Mavs, 42.5 percent to 38.1 percent, adding a 46-42 rebounding edge to overcome their 17 turnovers. But although the Mavs eventually made several successful adjustments in the second half, they also know that the start defensively put them in an uphill climb.
“They scored 63 in the first half, so we definitely did a lot better job in the second half of mixing it up and making things hard on them,” point guard Deron Williams admitted while critiquing the team’s first-half play.
He added: “We can’t start games like that. We can’t allow 63 points in a half and put ourselves in a position where we’re fighting an uphill battle all the time. It’s definitely great that we figured some things out, but we’ve got to turn around and apply that next game.”
Through three games, the Mavericks rank 23rd in the league while allowing 109.7 points per outing and 46.9 percent shooting. The Mavs are also tied for 22nd in the league in the rebounding department, pulling down 41.7 boards per game. Those numbers must change, according to swingman Wesley Matthews, if the team is going to get on track Wednesday night against a 1-2 Utah Jazz team. And after finding some success in the second half against the Rockets, the Mavericks will try to carry that momentum forward.
“You know, our margin for error is slim like most NBA teams,” Matthews explained. “We’re not the Golden State Warriors. We’re not the Cleveland Cavaliers. We’re not the [San Antonio Spurs], but we’re a (darn) good team. We’ve just got to minimize the stuff that we can control — end-of-quarter situations, over rotating, over helping. You know, continue to play scouting reports.”
Note: The Mavericks will now travel to Salt Lake City for Wednesday’s battle against the upstart Utah Jazz. The game will tip off at 8 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest and 103.3 FM ESPN.
The Mavs return to American Airlines Center on Friday night, hosting the Portland Trail Blazers. The game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest and 103.3 FM ESPN. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting Mavs.com, or by calling (214) 747-MAVS.
Devin Harris (right great toe sprain) — out
Dirk Nowitzki (illness) — questionable