Preview: Mavericks (1-0) at Jazz (0-0) – Scrappy Mavs soar to Salt Lake after thrilling win in L.A.
Earl K. Sneed reports from Salt Lake City and previews the Dallas Mavericks' Wednesday night showdown against the Utah Jazz, as the Mavs try to return home with a 2-0 record after a season-opening win L.A.
SALT LAKE CITY – Without 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki in the lineup for Opening Night for the first time in his career, the Dallas Mavericks may have come into the 2012-13 season flying under the radar.
But after leaving the Staples Center with a 99-91 road victory over the new-look Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night, the Mavericks (1-0) may have grabbed the full attention of the NBA.
Without Nowitzki and center Chris Kaman (strained right calf), the Mavs rallied together with a balanced effort to take down the talented Lakers. Now, with the team set to play the second half of a back-to-back in Utah against the Jazz on Wednesday night, the short-handed Mavs will try to keep the momentum as Nowitzki continues to rehab back in Dallas from arthroscopic knee surgery on Oct. 19.
“As a competitor, you want to prove people wrong,” point guard Darren Collison explained after leading six Mavericks in double figures with 17 points on 8-of-12 shooting. “As a competitor, when everybody says, ‘You don’t have Dirk and you don’t stand a chance,’ you want to prove people wrong. And we want to hold down the fort as much as we can until Dirk gets back.”
“Good win. I thought we played scrappy from start to finish and came out with the win,” backcourt mate O.J. Mayo added. “Obviously with Dirk out, he’s a big part of what we do and this organization, and he’s definitely put the organization on his back for years and done his job. But that’s the whole reason why you regroup and reload and bring in younger, fresher legs to help him out. It’s a lot of miles and it’s our job to hold down the fort a little bit.”
Led by their 25-year-old floor general, Collison, a scrappy Mavericks squad made up for their lack of size with effort, hustle and up-tempo play, using an efficient brand of basketball to collect the W after committing just 12 turnovers. The Dallas team also battled the likes of Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol on the glass, losing the rebounding battle just slightly, 46-40, despite the absence of two 7-footers.
Those trends will have to continue, according to coach Rick Carlisle, against the front line of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, if the Mavericks hope to return to Dallas with a 2-0 sweep of their first of 16 back-to-backs this season. The Mavs will also get their first look at a Utah team that has added key pieces like Randy Foye, Mo Williams and Marvin Williams, after finishing with an identical 36-30 record as Dallas last season before eventually getting swept out of the first round of the playoffs.
“We kept the tempo going, we were efficient with the ball and we rebounded. Those three things really carried the game for us,” Carlisle said of Tuesday night. “It’s a great win. If you execute in this league and have talent, you have a chance to win and we did that. We were opportunistic … and got the job done.
“Most back-to-backs in the West are gonna be tough. I don’t know if any of them are gonna be easy,” the coach matter-of-factly added, however. “This one particularly isn’t easy, because you travel, losing time and all that, but this is part of the deal. You know, hopefully we’ll be the recipient of some of the advantages of this and disadvantages of other teams. I mean, that’s usually the way it goes. But the schedule is not going to change, and for us, we only have 16 back-to-backs, so that’s a very manageable number comparably across the league. So, hey, it’s tough, but if you’re gonna start out, you might as well start off against the better teams, and that’s what we’re doing.”