Mavs’ J.J. Barea, Dwight Powell stepped up with their team in need of spark against Spurs

DALLAS — With rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. still sidelined due to a left hip strain and their team in need of a victory after a winless three-game road trip, reserves Dwight Powell and J.J. Barea elevated their play Tuesday night for the Dallas Mavericks to push them past the San Antonio Spurs.

Lifting the Mavericks (8-20) to a 95-89 win, Barea and Powell carried the second unit while sparking their team to a victory. Barea tallied 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting in less than 25 minutes off the bench, filling up the stat sheet with six rebounds and six assists to boot. Meanwhile, Powell also rose to the occasion in a reserve role, recording his first double-double of the season with 12 points and 12 rebounds in just over 17 minutes of action. And with the Mavs now hopeful to venture back out on the road with a bit of momentum, the duo will look to continue energizing their squad away from home.

“Well, (Tuesday) we did a great job,” Barea said after the win. “In the second half, it wasn’t a good start. But we got some good rhythm, especially offensively there in the second half, and we kept attacking throughout the second half. I think that was the key.

“Me and Dwight, we’ve got a good connection here lately and the last couple of weeks, and he was great (Tuesday),” the veteran lead guard added. “He was diving, he was finishing and he was playing great defense, so we need that, especially from the bench. So, it was great.”

On the season, the 33-year-old Barea is averaging a career-high 12.2 points, career-best 3.1 rebounds and 5.4 assists an outing. He’s also shooting 43 percent from the field and career-high 39 percent from three-point range, giving the Mavericks consistency at the point guard position in the second unit. Meanwhile, Powell is averaging 6.2 points per game, a career-high 5.3 rebounds and career-best 1.0 assists an outing, shooting 50.4 percent from the field. And according to the athletic fourth-year big man, he and Barea are building a chemistry on and off the court that figures to be beneficial to the Mavs moving forward.

“I mean, I spend a lot of time talking to him and [Devin Harris] just about where to be, when to be there and just going over the smaller details,” Powell said of his relationship with Barea. “As my career develops, spending more time with those guys has been really crucial for my game. They’ve done a great job of kind of bringing me along.”

The play of Barea and Powell hasn’t gone unnoticed by their teammates and coach Rick Carlisle, garnering plenty of praise after Tuesday’s win. The Mavericks now hope the two spark plugs can ignite a much-needed road win Thursday night against the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors. And according to Carlisle, one thing he knows is the two will certainly provide toughness, grit and energetic play as the Mavericks continue to rally together after a sluggish start to the season.

“[Powell] always gives us amazing energy, toughness and just gives us that team toughness. He is just so into the team and winning. Guys like him, you just can’t get enough of,” Carlisle explained.

“[Barea] came into camp in great shape. Last year, he didn’t play that many games, and so while he did have some injuries, there wasn’t a lot of wear and tear in terms of a lot of minutes except for early in the year. So, I think that may have had a little something to do with it,” the coach added. “But he’s a worker. So much of this is about keeping an edge, and a guy like him, who’s always had to fight for everything, is never going to give in and is always going to maintain that mental edge. He was fantastic (Tuesday), and he really fought on defense, too.”

Note: The Mavericks will now hit the road for a two-game trip that begins Thursday against the defending champion Golden State Warriors. The Warriors lead the season series 1-0 after a 133-103 win in Dallas on Oct. 23. The game will air nationally on TNT at 9:30 p.m. CT.

The Mavs return to their home floor next Monday night at American Airlines Center against the Phoenix Suns. That game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest and 103.3 FM ESPN. The game will also air in Spanish on KFLC AM 1270. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting Mavs.com, or by calling (214) 747-MAVS.

Injury updates:

Dennis Smith Jr. (left hip strain) — out
Dorian Finney-Smith (left knee quadriceps tendinitis) — out
Seth Curry (stress reaction, left tibia) — out
Josh McRoberts (lower extremity injury) — out
Nerlens Noel (left thumb surgery) — out

After strong close to ’16-17 season, Mavs have high expectations for Dwight Powell this year

DALLAS — He came on strong to close the 2016-17 season, making the most of additional playing time near the end of the schedule as the Dallas Mavericks rested their veterans. Now, the Mavericks are hopeful backup big man Dwight Powell can continue his progression this upcoming season while carving out a bigger role with the team.

Last summer, Powell signed a reported four-year contract worth $37 million, hoping to emerge as a multi-positional player with the team. The 26-year-old then produced career-high numbers across the board during his third season in the NBA, averaging 6.7 points and 4.0 rebounds in 17.3 minutes an outing while making 77 appearances. However, Powell saw his most production while averaging 13.8 points and 4.8 rebounds in 28.3 minutes per outing during the Mavericks’ final four games of the season. And after seeing the 6-foot-11 big man begin to tap into his full potential, Mavs owner Mark Cuban says Powell could be set for a breakout season.

“He’s got to be consistent like he has been (late last season) to be a stretch four,” Cuban said while assessing Powell’s play during the ’16-17 schedule. “The first 70 games, he wasn’t. We wanted him to be, but he wasn’t. But as a pick-and-roll guy, he’s been amazing. And if he can shoot 35 or more percent from three, that changes his game dramatically. And then he’s just got to improve on the defensive end. You know, I think Dwight leads the league in (bad) calls against him. I mean, it’s not even close, and so we’ve got to talk to the league to find out why he’s the fall guy so often. And then Dwight’s got to improve his shot blocking, because he’s got the length and athletic ability to be able to block more shots and rebound. But I think he’ll improve in all of those areas. Again, he played more minutes than he ever has, and I don’t think people really recognize that to mentally go from all of a sudden playing four minutes a game for 50-60 games to 20 minutes a game, by the time you get to the end of the season, that’s tough.”

Powell finished last season shooting 51.5 percent from the field, but he connected on just 28.4 percent from behind the three-point arc while continuing to add perimeter shooting to his repertoire. He also saw his three-point shooting percentage climb to 33.3 percent from long range during the team’s final six games, playing more time at power forward after seeing the bulk of his minutes previously as a backup center. Powell registered a career-high 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the field and 4-of-8 shooting from three-point range during a 124-111 loss in Phoenix on April 9, grabbing five rebounds, dishing two assists, collecting two steals and recording a block to boot in 32 minutes of action. And according to Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, Powell’s biggest challenge entering this season is to continue making strides as an outside shooter.

“I thought Powell continues to really do well with his three-point shooting, which is a really encouraging sign,” Carlisle said following last season. “He’s gotten a lot better with it. … Again, that’s a part of his game that needs to come around, and he knows that. He’s been busting his tail working on it, but we just haven’t been able to get him the reps in games. And so, again, now is a time we can look at that, and we can get him some of those shots. Young players in many cases are just so excitable that they get in the game for a short period of time and they’re just so hyped up, and it’s difficult to get into a rhythm. I want to see him play a little more extended minutes at the four, ’cause he’s played almost predominantly at five all year long.”

Acquired by Dallas along with former point guard Rajon Rondo on Dec. 18, 2014, in a deal that sent Jae Crowder, Brandan Wright, Jameer Nelson, a 2015 first-round pick and a second-round pick to Boston, Powell joined the Mavericks eager to prove that he was more than just a throw-in to complete the trade. He then showed plenty of promise during the ’15-16 campaign, averaging 5.8 points and 4.0 rebounds during just 14.4 minutes per outing in 69 games prior to inking his new deal. However, despite a spike in those numbers last season, Powell still admittedly has more work to do in order to take the next step in his career. And after seeing the Mavericks miss out on the playoffs following a 33-49 record, Powell says he will have to increase his individual level of play at both ends of the floor this upcoming season.

“Expanding my range and continuing to develop all facets of the game offensively and defensively is a long process, and I’m just going to keep working at it,” Powell explained. “Obviously, I had higher expectations for myself. I wanted to help this team more, and I wanted to win more. … Whatever it takes to help this team win and to put myself in a situation to be successful and help our team be successful, I’m willing to do whatever role [Carlisle] wants me to do. That means continuing to develop really all facets of the game to be ready for those opportunities.”

With improved outside shooting, Dwight Powell closed ’16-17 strong

2016-17 Exit Interview: Dwight Powell

Mavs F Dwight Powell addresses the media for exit interviews.

DALLAS — Although it was a small sample size to close the 2016-17 schedule, the Dallas Mavericks were encouraged by 25-year-old big man Dwight Powell’s late-season offensive explosion and versatility along the front line entering the summer.

Last summer, Powell signed a reported four-year contract worth $37 million after showing glimpses of what he could do during the ’15-16 season. Powell then produced career-high numbers across the board during his third season in the NBA, averaging 6.7 points and 4.0 rebounds in 17.3 minutes an outing while making 77 appearances. But by averaging 13.8 points and 4.8 rebounds in 28.3 minutes during the Mavericks’ final four games of the season, Powell now admittedly heads into the summer with plenty of confidence after showcasing his overall ability to close the year.

“That was definitely one of the focuses, and it continues to be one of the focuses,” Powell explained. “Expanding my range and continuing to develop all facets of the game offensive and defensive is a long process, and I’m just going to keep working at it.

“Obviously, I had higher expectations for myself. I wanted to help this team more, and I wanted to win more. … Whatever it takes to help this team win and to put myself in a situation to be successful and help our team be successful, I’m willing to do whatever role [Mavs coach Rick Carlisle] wants me to do. That means continuing to develop really all facets of the game to be ready for those opportunities.”

Powell’s hard work definitely paid off to close the season, seeing a spike in his numbers while being gifted with more playing time by Carlisle. And according to Carlisle, one reason for that late explosion was Powell’s improved three-point shooting to close the season.

Powell finished the season shooting 51.5 percent from the field and 28.4 percent from behind the three-point arc. The 6-foot-11 big man also connected on 33.3 percent from long range during the final six games, taking advantage of his additional minutes at power forward after playing the bulk of his time this season as a backup center. Powell registered a career-high 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting and 4-of-8 from three-point range during a 124-111 loss in Phoenix on April 9, grabbing five rebounds, dishing two assists, collecting two steals and recording a block to boot in 32 minutes of action. That said, Carlisle will look for Powell to continue to develop his outside shot this summer while hoping the three-year pro can return more consistent from long range next season.

“I thought Powell continues to really do well with his three-point shooting, which is a really encouraging sign,” Carlisle said following the season.

He added: “He’s gotten a lot better with it. … Again, that’s a part of his game that needs to come around, and he knows that. He’s been busting his tail working on it, but we just haven’t been able to get him the reps in games. And so, again, now is a time we can look at that, and we can get him some of those shots. Young players in many cases are just so excitable that they get in the game for a short period of time and they’re just so hyped up, and it’s difficult to get into a rhythm. I want to see him play a little more extended minutes at the four, ’cause he’s played almost predominantly at five all year long.”

Powell averaged 5.8 points and 4.0 rebounds in 14.4 minutes per outing in 69 games with the Mavericks during the ’15-16 season before inking a new deal in restricted free agency last July. Prior to that, he was acquired by Dallas along with former point guard Rajon Rondo on Dec. 18, 2014, in a deal that sent Jae Crowder, Brandan Wright, Jameer Nelson, a 2015 first-round pick and a second-round pick to Boston. The Mavericks then viewed Powell as a multi-positional player when the front office signed the young big man last summer. And to the approval of Mavs owner Mark Cuban, Powell showed signs of filling that role throughout this season. But according to Cuban, Powell has to do more than simply show that he can consistently knock down outside shots in order to maximize his full potential next season.

“He’s got to be consistent like he has been (to close the season) to be a stretch four,” Cuban said while assessing Powell’s play. “The first 70 games, he wasn’t. We wanted him to be, but he wasn’t. But as a roll guy, he’s been amazing. And if he can shoot 35 or more percent from three, that changes his game dramatically. And then he’s just got to improve on the defensive end. You know, I think Dwight leads the league in (bad) calls against him. I mean, it’s not even close, and so we’ve got to talk to the league to find out why he’s the fall guy so often. And then Dwight’s got to improve his shot blocking, because he’s got the length and athletic ability to be able to block more shots and rebounding. But I think he’ll improve in all of those areas. Again, he played more minutes than he ever has, and I don’t think people really recognize that to mentally go from all of a sudden playing four minutes a game for 50-60 games to 20 minutes a game, by the time you get to the end of the season, that’s tough.”

Despite string of losses, Mavs are encouraged by development of young players

DALLAS — Despite falling to a fourth straight loss following a 124-111 defeat Sunday in Phoenix, the Dallas Mavericks remained encouraged by the development of their young contributors to close the 2016-17 season.

Continuing a trend of resting their veterans in the second half, the Mavericks (32-48) were outscored 56-46 during the final two quarters of Sunday’s matchup. The Mavericks also shot just 37 percent in the second half while committing seven turnovers, allowing the Suns to connect on 51.3 percent at the other end of the floor. Still, according to Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, there were encouraging signs from the team’s emerging young core to build on.

“Look, Phoenix can really score. We just didn’t play defense well enough really from start to finish. The positives for us, you know, I thought (Dwight) Powell continues to really do well with his three-point shooting, which is a really encouraging sign. And the young guys are getting experience. They’re getting their brains beat in, in the second halves, but this is how you learn,” Carlisle confessed.

“Again, we don’t have a star player out there with those guys,” the coach added. “You know, they’re figuring out how they need to help each other, and how they need to play together at both ends to make sure they can get stops and rebounds. And when teams are doing the junk-it-up and switching type of stuff, they’ve got to be able to make basketball plays. And again, we had some pretty good play-making situations where we missed a shot that would be considered a good shot. Hey, there’s some positives in there, and the big positive is these guys are learning.”

Scoring 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting and 3 of 6 from three-point range in 32 minutes of action, undrafted rookie point guard Yogi Ferrell made the most of his additional playing time and opportunity in the starting lineup. Meanwhile, the 25-year-old Powell posted a career-high 21 points (12 in the second half) on 8-of-14 shooting and 4 of 8 from three-point range off the bench, pulling down five rebounds to boot in over 32 minutes. Backup forward Jarrod Uthoff also finished with 12 points and nine boards in a reserve role, and Argentine swingman Nicolas Brussino finished with 11 points as well in the second unit. And despite coming up on the losing end, Ferrell says the young contributors gained valuable experience that figures to pay off for the franchise down the road.

“It’s definitely difficult. We don’t like losing, but we know why we’re (playing veterans only in the first half), and it’s to try to make us young guys better. We’re just making it a learning experience,” Ferrell explained. “We’re all getting a good feel for where we want to pick and choose our spots and where we like to find each other, so I feel like we’ve had a great time playing together.

“We definitely need it. And along with those growing pains, we’ve got to also watch the film with it, too. You know, it’s different when you see it from a bird’s-eye view, so we’ve got to do that along with continuing to go out there and just play hard for each other.”

Note: The Mavericks will now return to their home floor on Tuesday, welcoming in the Denver Nuggets. Denver leads the season series 2-1. The game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on TXA 21 and 103.3 FM ESPN. That game will also air in Spanish on KFLC AM 1270. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting Mavs.com, or by calling (214) 747-MAVS.

Injury updates:

Seth Curry (left shoulder injury) — out

Dwight Powell’s play in preseason could foreshadow breakout ’16-17 campaign

DALLAS — If the preseason is any indication of how effective he’ll be this upcoming season, then third-year big man Dwight Powell appears headed for a breakout 2016-17 campaign for the Dallas Mavericks.

Making two starts during his 69 appearances last season, the 25-year-old Powell averaged 5.8 points and 4.0 rebounds in 14.4 minutes a game. He then increased his production during the Mavericks’ first-round playoff series against Oklahoma City, posting 6.0 points and 4.3 boards an outing while appearing in four of the five games. Now, after signing a reported four-year deal worth $37 million this summer to return to the Mavs during free agency, the 6-foot-11 big man hopes to unleash his full potential on the rest of the league this season.

“Just really doing whatever I can to help us win,” Powell modestly said after the Mavericks’ 114-109 victory Tuesday over Oklahoma City. “I’m being more active on defense, trying to disrupt things and just be a spark plug off the bench.

“I’ve worked on my shot, handling the ball, and defensively I’ve just continued to evolve, concentrating on position defense and being able to help out weak side. Just continuing to try to help our team win however I can.”

Scoring nine points, grabbing seven rebounds, dishing an assist and collecting two steals in the Mavericks’ 116-102 loss against New Orleans during the preseason opener on Oct. 1, Powell showed glimpses of how much he can impact the game in 19 minutes of work. He followed that up with eight points, three boards, two assists and a block two nights later, helping to lead the Mavs to a 95-88 victory at home over Charlotte. However, Powell has made even more of an impact during the team’s last two exhibition outings while showcasing his all-around skills.

Clocking 24 minutes against Milwaukee last Saturday night during an 88-74 road defeat, Powell scored a team-best 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting in a losing effort, securing seven rebounds and recording a steal to boot. He replicated that performance Tuesday night against the Thunder’s physical front line by scoring 16 points, grabbing seven boards and collecting a steal in just 19 minutes. More importantly, according to Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, the energetic Powell played without finding himself in foul trouble. And while seeing time at both the center and power forward positions this preseason, Powell showed his value to the team.

“Well, he’s always been aggressive going for rebounds, but what he’s doing better this year is playing without fouling,” Carlisle said while praising Powell’s play this preseason. “It’s going to be so important, because he’s a physical player. He’s athletic, he has length, but he’s got to be able stay on the floor.”

Powell, a former Stanford standout, was originally drafted by Charlotte with the 45th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, but he quickly had his rights traded along with former Mav Brendan Haywood to Cleveland in exchange for Scotty Hopson and cash considerations. He was then dealt again to Boston along with Malcolm Thomas, Erik Murphy, John Lucas III, two future second-round picks and a trade exception in exchange for Keith Bogans and two future second-round picks. Powell made one more stop during his rookie season after that, heading to Dallas along with four-time All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo on Dec. 18, 2014, in a deal that sent Jae Crowder, Brandan Wright, Jameer Nelson, a 2015 first-round pick and a 2016 second-round pick back to the Celtics. Now, after finding a home with the Mavericks, Powell says he hopes to make an impact on a nightly basis simply by being active on the court.

“I’m trying to just be active and give us as many opportunities as I can, especially on offense. I try to crash and mess things up,” Powell explained. “I mean, to be honest, [the preseason] has really been a learning experience. I think defensively I can improve a lot, and there’s a lot of tape that I can sit down and analyze about positioning, especially in the post. And I can develop from there.”

Note: The Mavericks will now travel to Phoenix for their fifth preseason matchup on Friday night. The game will tip off at 9 p.m. CT, airing locally on 103.3 FM ESPN.

The Mavs return home to host the Houston Rockets at American Airlines Center next Wednesday night. The game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on TXA 21 and 103.3 FM ESPN. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting Mavs.com, or by calling (214) 747-MAVS.

Injury updates:

Salah Mejri (right knee surgery) — out

Quincy Acy (right foot injury) — out

Wesley Matthews (rest) — out

Seth Curry (rest) — out

Big men play huge in Mavs win against OKC

Highlights: Mavs vs. Thunder

Dwight led the team with 16 points and Dirk made his preseason debut as the Mavs defeat the Thunder 114-109 Tuesday night.

While more eyes were on Dirk Nowitzki in his preseason debut, the Mavs’ other big men ended up stealing the spotlight in Tuesday night’s 114-109 win against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Andrew Bogut, Dwight Powell, and A.J. Hammons combined for 28 points, 23 rebounds, and four blocks in the win, each playing in his own style and to his own strength during his time on the floor.

The Mavericks are still working every player into the mix — last night both Nowitzki and Devin Harris debuted, but Wesley Matthews and Seth Curry both sat out for precautionary reasons while Quincy Acy and Salah Mejri missed with injuries — but if the win against the Thunder showed anything, it was that the Mavericks could be a much different team at the center spot this season. And, perhaps, much-improved as well.

Cue the highlight reel.

Andrew Bogut

Bogut was phenomenal in his first home action as a Maverick. He scored only four points on 1-of-5 shooting, but he tallied 11 rebounds, three blocks, and three assists in just 16 minutes. His scoring won’t be as integral an ingredient to this team’s success as his court vision and passing will be, anyway. Bogut reads the floor like a point guard and is capable of delivering passes at a variety of angles to set his teammates up.

Here he finds Harrison Barnes on a cut from the elbow.

The geometry of that play prevented Bogut from delivering a leading pass to Barnes, so instead the center opted for the basketball equivalent of a back shoulder fade. All Barnes had to do was collect the pass, spin, and go up. (Barnes has been very effective moving off the ball so far this preseason.)

Bogut also appears to have the green light to bring the ball up the floor on occasion, which led to this gem of a pass to a backdoor-cutting Devin Harris.

And this no-look, between-the-legs pass to Deron Williams is equal parts style and substance.

It’s fancy, sure, but the ball hits Williams in stride and sets him up for an open 3-pointer, at the same time allowing Bogut to remain in position to set an immediate screen on Williams’ man to give him even more space. That’s a useful pass, one Bogut said he added to the toolbox after playing with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson for so many years in Golden State.

But Bogut also played terrific defense, blocking three shots and controlling the paint against a tough assignment, OKC center Enes Kanter. The Thunder scored only 72.2 points per 100 possessions when Bogut was on the floor, per NBA Stats, and the team maintained only a 30.3 effective field goal percentage when the Australian played. That’s not a sustainable number, of course, but some of that struggle came as a direct result of Bogut’s interior presence. Mavs fans are about to understand just how good a player Bogut is.

Dwight Powell

The same could be said for Dwight Powell, as the young big man has continued his impressive preseason. He scored 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting against the Thunder and grabbed seven rebounds, his second consecutive game with 15+ points and 7+ rebounds.

Last season Powell played a ton of center minutes toward the beginning of the season, but as the campaign wore on he spent more of his time at power forward. So far in the exhibition season he’s played both positions again, but he’s appeared much more effective at the center spot than he did in 2015-16.

He’s performed in the vertical game, throwing down a standard alley-oop dunk against the Thunder along with this, um, unconventional one from J.J. Barea.

There’s no question Powell can excel as a finisher in the lob game, but his biggest area of improvement heading into the offseason had to be developing his mid-range jump shot, and so far he’s reliably knocked it down.

Why is that such an important element to his game? It makes the defense respect his jump shot, of course, but particularly when Powell is at the 5, it unlocks a totally new aspect to his game: putting the ball on the floor and attacking closeouts. Slow-footed centers simply cannot keep up in space with a player as athletic as Powell, so if he can continue to knock down the jumpers and then mix in some dribble moves once in a while, he can become one of the more dynamic centers in the league.

Powell has the physical makeup and athletic ability to have a super-efficient season, a la Brandan Wright during his time with the Mavericks, and if he continues to hit the mid-range jumper, he could become one of the premier backup big men in the NBA very quickly.

A.J. Hammons

This was easily Hammons’ most impressive showing of the exhibition season to this point, as the rookie big man scored eight points, grabbed five rebounds, and blocked one shot. Each of his four buckets came on jump shots, one of which was almost a fallaway in the mid-post. Hammons had an advanced offensive skill set, particularly on the block.

Where he’s really shined so far, however — and where he can separate himself at this level — is in the mid-range game. He has an easy jump shot and has demonstrated he can stretch his range out to as far as 22 feet with relative consistency.

Hammons is a true 7-footer and already possesses a soft touch on the inside and a pretty jumper from the outside. One wonders if he can expand his range to the 3-point line sooner than later — after all, in the last shot in the above highlight, his heels were on the line at the top of the arc. The Mavericks always want their centers to perform more in the pick-and-roll than in the pick-and-pop, but if the 24-year-old Hammons is eventually able to do both, that’s even better. That’s what makes him such a tantalizing offensive prospect.

The thing all three of these centers have in common is they can finish on the inside, but they can also all position themselves 20-25 feet from the basket and succeed. Bogut’s passing and Powell and Hammons’ shooting ability gives the Mavericks the luxury of playing 5-out basketball whenever they want, meaning all five players are on the perimeter. That leaves what feels like miles of space for the opposing defense to cover, all without a center to protect the rim because he’s pulled out to the 3-point line. Combined with the unprecedented effect Dirk Nowitzki has on opponents’ spacing, the Mavericks could potentially have more space to work with on offense than any team not named Golden State.

It’s still obviously very early, though, and those are steep claims no make. There’s no guarantee Powell will continue to make half his mid-range jumpers, even if they’re all basically wide-open. The rotation at center is set to change at least a bit, too, once Mejri returns to action — which should be soon, per Rick Carlisle — but Mejri is imposing at the rim on both ends of the floor, so the Mavs will happily sacrifice just a bit of spacing if it leads to dunks. But for a team whose biggest area of need this summer was center, the Mavericks appear to have turned a weakness into a significant strength.

Mavs know there’s room for growth following Saturday’s exhibition loss to Milwaukee

DALLAS — Despite working two of their projected starters into the first unit Saturday night during an 88-74 exhibition loss to Milwaukee, the Dallas Mavericks know they have a lot of corrections to make before returning to action Tuesday at home against Oklahoma City.

Seeing center Andrew Bogut and point guard Deron Williams make their preseason debuts, the Mavericks (1-2) struggled to click offensively during the first half with four of their five regular-season starters in action. The Mavs also failed to contain the Bucks at the defensive end of the floor, struggling to corral Milwaukee’s young and athletic lineup. Now, with the high-octane Oklahoma City Thunder set to invade American Airlines Center, the Mavericks hope to learn from the mistakes made during Saturday’s showdown in time to send a message to the team that ended their 2015-16 season.

“I thought [the Bucks] played like it was a playoff game, and I thought we played like it was an exhibition game. And hence the result,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle confessed following Saturday’s loss. “They’re extremely well-coached, they come at you hard for all 94 feet, and we just didn’t do a very good job with their pressure. So, you know, it’s an eye-opening game for us, and we’re going to have to get a lot better.

“We’ve got a lot of things to work on,” the coach added. “OKC is going to be another athletic team that’s going to exert pressure, and we’re going to have to do a better job breaking it.”

Continuing to play minus 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki (rest), reserve guard Devin Harris (left great toe surgery) and backup big man Salah Mejri (right knee surgery), the Mavericks had a hard time finding offensive success during the first half against the Bucks’ length and athleticism. The Mavs were outshot through two quarters, 36.6 percent to 27.9 percent, giving up 13 points off their 12 turnovers as well to nullify a 29-26 rebounding edge. Meanwhile, Bogut and Williams struggled in their preseason debuts, totaling three points, seven rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block between them in the first unit during a half of play. Now, with a chance to redeem themselves, the duo hopes to give the Mavs more production on Tuesday night.

“It was ugly for us,” Bogut admitted after Saturday’s loss. “I think it’s the preseason right now, and it’s not the result we wanted. For me individually, I was running in the mud a little bit. It was my first game out there, so it’s good to put the first one behind me. We’ll get some work in next week and keep progressing.

“Just as a unit, I think when we move the ball one or two times around the perimeter and everyone kind of got a quick touch, I think we got good shots. I think when we get in trouble, for the most part, is when we get one pass and a shot. I think for a team like Milwaukee that’s long and athletic, they run it straight down back at you, so we need to do a better job when we play these guys one of the first games of the season. We can’t let them get out in the open floor, and a lot of that starts with taking good shots.”

Finishing the game outshot by the Bucks through four quarters, 41.8 percent to 33.7 percent, Dallas’ 50-47 rebounding edge was overshadowed by the 18 Milwaukee points scored off the Mavericks’ 20 turnovers. Third-year standout Dwight Powell also proved to be the lone bright spot for the Mavs in place of Nowitzki as the starting power forward, scoring 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting and grabbing seven rebounds in a losing effort. Still, despite playing well personally, Powell knows the Mavericks will have to improve as a team. And while looking to exact a bit of revenge for last season’s first-round playoff exit, Powell and the Mavs hope to put forth a better effort in their fourth of seven exhibition outings.

“I mean, I think we can do a lot better,” Powell said. “I think guys are just starting out in the preseason and playing serious, but we need to play even harder and get better on a string together. But I think we did well.”

Note: The Mavericks will now return home to host the Oklahoma City Thunder at American Airlines Center on Tuesday night. 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.

Injury updates:

Devin Harris (left great toe surgery) — out

Salah Mejri (right knee surgery) — out

Dirk Nowitzki (rest) — out