Preview: Nuggets (17-12) at Mavericks (18-11)
Earl K. Sneed previews the Dallas Mavericks' Wednesday night matchup against the Denver Nuggets. The defending champions will try to extend their four-game winning streak after presenting ex-Mav Corey Brewer with his championship ring.
DALLAS — When your offense isn’t going your defense has to step up even more if you hope to leave the court with a victory.
That’s the message Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle has preached to his players daily since arriving in Big D. While the message hit home last season when the Dallas defense carried the Mavericks to the championship, it seems to have once again resounded with Carlisle’s veteran team this year. That was apparent Monday night, when the Mavs staged a defensive stand against the high-octane Los Angeles Clippers while leading scorer Dirk Nowitzki struggled with an off-shooting night.
That defensive intensity well be counted on again Wednesday night with the Denver Nuggets, winners of back-to-back games, in town as the Mavericks try to extend their winning streak to five against the team it began against following a three-game losing streak. And after the teams split two games this season with both squads winning by double digits on the other’s home floor, Carlisle and his team will try to end that trend in front of the American Airlines Center crowd.
“Well, if we don’t defend we’re not gonna be a good team. We know that,” Carlisle explained. “You know, when we had the three-game losing streak our defense was struggling during that period. We came off that, we had two days of practice, which I think helped us, and then the win in Denver kind of got us going a little bit. And it’s not so much about the schemes as it is about the mentality of just scrambling and staying in each possession, covering the ball and helping one another.”
“Regardless of how up and down our offense has been or can be, defensively we have to stay solid,” new addition Vince Carter added.
In a 96-92 win over the Clippers, the Mavericks’ fourth straight victory, the team forced stops on 12 of the final 16 L.A. possessions. The Dallas defense also forced nine of the Clippers’ 21 turnovers in the fourth quarter, scoring 22 points off the miscues in the game while only surrendering 10 points off their own 11 giveaways.
“A big challenge for us coming into the game — coming off of 43 turnovers in two games — was to get our turnovers down, and of course, we always want to force turnovers if we can,” Carlisle explained. “We did a good job in the scope of the entire game with only 11 and that was big. Defensively, I give the guys a lot of credit. [The Clippers] are one of the tougher teams to guard. … They’ve got a lot of answers out there. It was defense that got us over the hump.”
Avenging a 115-93 defeat on Dec. 26, the Mavs went into the Pepsi Center last Wednesday and came out with a 105-95 victory on the road behind Nowitzki’s game-high 25 points on 11-of-20 shooting. One week later, the Mavericks will try to do it again, this time on their own home hardwood, as Nowitzki tries to bounce back from a 5-for-15 performance and early foul trouble against the Clippers.
“I had some shots I’ve got to make and I missed four free throws,” Nowitzki said despite scoring 11 of his team-high 22 points in the fourth quarter. “Obviously, the early foul trouble didn’t help my rhythm much, but I had some looks I’ve just gotta make. I didn’t really have a great rhythm there, but we had enough stops and we got a little lucky at the end.”
Now, Nowitzki and his teammates will try to do something they failed at two nights prior: Contain a former teammate.
Surrendering a season-high 23 points to ex-Maverick Caron Butler, the defending champs managed to survive a big scoring night from the two-time All-Star after presenting him with his championship ring before the game. Although the Nuggets will perhaps be without big men Nene (strained left calf) and Timofey Mozgov (ankle) Wednesday night, the reigning titleholders will still have to deal with former Mav Corey Brewer and a loaded Denver lineup. And Carlisle says his team will also have to be prepared to both welcome back and stop Brewer after presenting him with his hardware for being a contributor on last season’s championship squad.
“Denver, again, is gonna be the same kind of game, but this time they’re gonna be a little more juiced up because they’ve got Brewer in the starting lineup,” Carlisle said. “He’s been playing well and he’s given them a lot of energy. And, you know, these guys, after they get their rings, they come in and play their [tails] off. So, we’ve got to be ready for him.
“When he comes in here, all these guys that are former Mavericks want to come back and prove a point,” the coach added. “We’re gonna have to be ready for him. … A lot of guys in that situation, they get their ring, they get emotional and they come out and don’t play as well. [Butler] is one of those guys whose game is gonna be elevated in that moment and Brewer is the same kind of guy. I mean, he’s a two-time NCAA champion and he’s a one-time NBA champion.”
Note: The Mavs return to action when they host the Denver Nuggets at the American Airlines Center Wednesday night. The two teams are tied at 1-1 in the season series with both winning on the other’s home floor. 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.
Single-game tickets are on sale and available at the American Airlines Center North Box Office, online at mavs.com, via phone by calling 214-747-MAVS or 1-800-4NBA-TIX and all Ticketmaster outlets (Fiesta Grocery Stores, Wal-Mart, Simon Mall in Garland and the Shops at Willow Bend in Plano).
Dr. Pepper Family Nights are here! Plans include four Mavs tickets and four McDonald’s extra value meals, starting at $49. Visit mavs.com or call 214-747-MAVS for a schedule of games and to purchase tickets.