Mavs look to turn page on preseason play, turning attention to Wednesday’s season opener

DALLAS — Despite finishing the preseason with a bitter taste after suffering a 111-96 defeat on the road Friday night in Charlotte, the Dallas Mavericks believe they accomplished a lot during the exhibition schedule prior to Wednesday night’s season opener against Atlanta.

Opening up the 2017-18 regular season Wednesday at home against the Hawks, the Mavericks will try to hit the ground running towards a return to the playoffs. The Mavs will also attempt to build on things they found success with during the preseason after finishing the six-game exhibition schedule with a 4-2 record. And according to leading scorer Harrison Barnes, the Mavs will now try to flip a switch before attempting to bounce back from a 33-49 record last season.

“I think we accomplished a lot,” Barnes said while summing up the preseason following Friday’s loss. “We got a chance to definitely get our conditioning in, get a feel and let guys get a rhythm. I think (Thursday’s 108-94 win in Atlanta) was good for our young guys, and (Friday night) was good for our vets to go out there and just play together. And I think we have enough of a base to go out there on Wednesday.”

Showing glimpses of clicking on all cylinders when the full complement of players were available, the Mavericks averaged 95.3 points per game this preseason to rank 27th in the NBA. The Mavs also connected on 42.7 percent from the field as a team, ranking 26th in the league in that department. The Dallas team will now attempt to build on what it did successfully during the preseason as the games begin to count in the standings. That said, Friday’s loss will serve as motivation to play at a high level on a nightly basis.

Trailing 28-27 after the first quarter, the Mavs fought back to take a 56-54 edge into the halftime intermission Friday night. However, the Mavericks weren’t able to carry that success over to the second half, outscored by the Hornets 57-40 in the final two quarters. And after shooting just 32.6 percent from the field in the second half of Friday’s loss, the Mavs will attempt to put together a full 48 minutes during Wednesday’s matchup.

“I think that was good for us to come out and lose like that, even with our vets on the team as well,” rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. said after Friday’s loss. “You know, we don’t want to think anything is sweet going into the regular season. We just got whooped by the Hornets, who’s a good team, so it was a reality check. You know, we’ve got to come out and compete.”

All told, seven Hornets scored in double figures while outshooting the Mavs for the game Friday night, 49.4 percent to 41.2 percent. Charlotte also added a 50-37 rebounding advantage, overshadowing its 22 turnovers. And after allowing the Hornets to shoot 17 of 30 from beyond the three-point arc, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle confesses that his team will have to be better defensively Wednesday night against the Hawks.

“Well, on an overall basis, I wasn’t pleased with how we played in Charlotte. I think we were a little detached,” Carlisle explained. “We gave up a lot of threes, and we had breakdowns. Once the real games come and Atlanta comes in here on Wednesday, you know, it’s going to be a different world. They’re going to be a hungry, young and opportunistic team that spaces the floor and shoots the heck out of the three, and we’re going to have to be a (heck) of a lot better than we were against Charlotte.”

Note: The Mavericks will now return to American Airlines Center on Oct. 18 for the regular-season opener against the Atlanta Hawks. 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:

Seth Curry (stress reaction, left tibia) — out
Josh McRoberts (rest) — out

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Mavs search for consistency with their starters, second unit as preseason nears an end

DALLAS — It was a tale of two halves for the Dallas Mavericks during their second-to-last preseason outing Wednesday night against Houston, falling to a 106-91 defeat in front of their hometown fans.

Sliding into a double-digit hole quickly after the opening tipoff Wednesday against the rival Rockets, the Mavericks’ starters surrendered a 21-4 run at the beginning of the game in just their second outing together this preseason. The Mavericks (2-4) then inched their way back into the game behind the play of their reserves, pulling to within one before looking up to a 47-38 deficit entering into the halftime intermission.

The Dallas starters returned to the court from there, finding some success in the third quarter before seeing the Rockets separate themselves again in the final period against Dallas’ second unit. Now, with just one more exhibition test remaining before the regular season gets underway, the Mavs hope to put together a more complete performance Friday night in Denver.

“Our starters have to develop an attitude to be effective,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle confessed after Wednesday’s loss. “It can’t be something where we ease into games. … We’ve just got to do better, and we’ve got a long way to go. We’re probably not as far away as it feels right now, but we’ve got work to do. Those guys have to be committed to each other and to hard play. It’s as simple as that.

“[The reserves] were good in the first half and lousy in the second half,” the coach added. “They helped us make up a huge deficit in the first half and got it to within one, I believe. In the second half, we were very poor on defense with that group. The ground that we made up after halftime was lost exponentially and immediately. We’re going to have to figure some things out here. It’s less about strategic things and more about a collective will that we have to play with, and we’re not doing it.”

The Rockets held a nine-point advantage through two quarters despite being outshot by the Mavericks in the first half, 36.6 percent to 32.6 percent. Houston also held a 29-24 rebounding edge at the half while connecting on 9 of 25 from behind the three-point arc to build its lead.

However, led by swingman Wesley Matthews and 10 of his team-high 15 points in the third period, the Mavs began to find some mojo in the early stage of the second half. And according to the versatile Matthews, that brief success can be credited to the Mavericks’ commitment at the defensive end of the floor.

“We didn’t get many stops,” Matthews admitted while critiquing Dallas’ play in the first half. “We didn’t get many stops, and this is the second time that the starting unit has played together in a real live-game situation. But we’re not going to put it on that. We’ve got to come out with a defensive mindset. You know, we’ve got different personnel and different pieces on the offensive end, but we can’t focus on the offensive end. We’ve got to focus on the defensive end. It’s easier to play offense when you’re not taking the ball out of the net, and we were doing that too much in the first half and the first quarter.”

The same could be said for the play of the Mavs’ bench, second-year standout Justin Anderson says, after inconsistent play from the reserves in the second half.

Playing without veteran guard J.J. Barea (left elbow sprain) and backup big man Quincy Acy (right foot sprain), the Mavericks drew energy from their reserves after their sluggish start behind Anderson’s eight points off the bench in the opening quarter. However, despite finishing the night with a 43-41 edge in bench scoring over the Rockets’ reserves, Anderson and the second unit weren’t able to sustain that success for the duration of the game. The Mavs now hope to collectively come together during their final exhibition test, looking to exert their will against the Nuggets (3-4) before opening the regular season next Wednesday in Indiana.

“I like that we’re getting battle tested right now. We still haven’t had our main guys play extensive minutes,” Anderson explained. “This is good for us, and it’s good for a lot of people. We were getting our (tails) kicked a little bit in the first half, and we responded really well. It was good to get out there with the second unit and do our job. We still had some of our mishaps and we weren’t as good in the second half, but we’ll be better. I think this is a good time for this to happen. We struggled a little bit, but we’ll learn from it and we’ll move on.”

Note: The Mavericks will now conclude the preseason on the road Friday night against the Denver Nuggets. 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 for the home opener on Oct. 28, hosting the Houston Rockets. 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:

Quincy Acy (right foot sprain) — out

J.J. Barea (left elbow sprain) — out