Uptempo Mavs look to negate Rockets’ size

HOUSTON — With five exhibition contests in the books and just three final preseason games still left on the schedule, the Dallas Mavericks may finally get their first look in a game situation at the team’s projected starting lineup Monday night in Houston.

Taking the court without starting point guard Jose Calderon through the first four preseason games, the Mavericks (3-2) were still not at full strength Saturday night in Greensboro, N.C., when Calderon returned while coach Rick Carlisle gave 11-time All-Star power forward Dirk Nowitzki a scheduled day off. Monday night, however, with All-Star big man Dwight Howard and the Rockets set to welcome their Southwest Division rival into the Toyota Center, the Mavs’ first unit may finally take the court intact as the upcoming season quickly approaches.

“We’ve got to put our guys together as much as we can in these last three games,” Carlisle explained. “Tonight’s 33 percent of the remaining preseason, so this is important. … Three games is a substantial enough time where I think we can make it work, but I don’t think anybody right now is saying that they’re on schedule with everything they want. Everybody wants to be a little bit more progressed than they are, and we’re no different. But we’re doing a lot of things in practice. We’re inserting things that we need to insert, and it’s a matter of what the most important things are before we get into Game 1 a week from Wednesday.”

“It’s going to be a good thing. I think we’ll see some different stuff out there,” four-time All-Star forward Shawn Marion added. “We haven’t really had time to practice with each other, though. Maybe a little bit, but not much. We’ve seen some great things, but it’s just a matter of getting it done.”

With the Rockets (3-1) expected to roll out a starting front line of Howard and 7-footer Omer Asik, the Mavs may need to have their full complement of players available while trying to pick up their third straight win in the preseason. The Dallas team will also try to combat Houston’s size with a relentless team effort on the glass while attempting to negate the Rockets’ rebounding advantage.

Meanwhile, the Mavs will try to play into their own strengths, looking to use their uptempo style to sprint to a win in their final preseason road matchup.

“It’ll be challenging. They’re going to have a great rebounding lineup out there when the two bigs are out, and we’ll have to do a good job on the boards. … All these games are good tests for us. There’s not one that isn’t, and so this heightens it. Having two 7-footers out there heightens the challenge of rebounding well, and we’re going to have to do it collectively. We’re not going to out-jump these guys collectively, so we’re going to have to out-scramble them,” Carlisle confessed.

“I think if we’re able to get the ball out and we’re able to run down the floor we can go at them as well,” Marion echoed. “The bigger you are, the slower you are.”

Note: The Mavericks return to action Monday night on the road in Houston for a matchup against the Southwest Division rival Rockets. The game will tip off at 7 p.m. CT, airing locally on TXA 21.

The team returns to American Airlines Center Oct. 23 against the Atlanta Hawks. The game will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS (6287) or by visiting Mavs.com.