Preview: Mavs vs. Nuggets in Dirk's home debut
Earl K. Sneed previews the Dallas Mavericks' Friday night matchup against the Denver Nuggets, as 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki makes his home debut while the Mavs try to bring an end to a four-game losing streak.
Preview: Nuggets (16-14) at Mavericks (12-17)
Mavs try to end skid vs. Nuggets in Dirk's home debut
After falling to a 111-105 overtime loss Thursday in Oklahoma City, the Mavericks (12-17) are now 0-5 this season in games that have required an extra period. All told, the Mavs have lost eight straight overtime games now, the longest such streak of any team in the NBA since the Atlanta Hawks lost 10 straight from 2003 to 2004.
But with 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki set to make his home debut Friday against the Denver Nuggets, optimism remains for the Dallas squad as it tries to bring an end to its current skid. And just one night after suffering yet another heartbreaking loss, the Mavs will look for better results back at the American Airlines Center.
“I think we’ve got to compete on every play. I don’t think we’re good enough this year to coast or take possessions off and I like the way we competed,” Nowitzki said after the loss in Oklahoma City. “Obviously, I think some other teams are more talented and so are [the Thunder], but if we play hard and compete, if we get after balls on defense and make them uncomfortable and put pressure on them, I like what I saw. We had a chance there to win this game, but just made some mistakes down the stretch that we can’t make.”
“We’ve just got to be more precise and execute better,” point guard Darren Collison added. “It’s going to come down to those games when we’re playing those tough teams like Oklahoma City and we’ve just got to be able to capitalize. … Dirk is our closer, and once he starts feeling like himself again and he’s playing more minutes, it’s easy to just give him the ball. But, you know, we’ll be fine. We’ve just got to execute better and I guarantee when Dirk starts feeling himself and playing more minutes, we’ll give him the ball, everybody just space out and watch him work.”
In order to get back in the win column, however, the Mavericks may need more from their starting point guard after Collison assumed the first unit floor general duties Thursday night before carving up the Thunder defense for a season-high 32 points on 13-of-22 shooting and 4-for-4 from 3-point range.
Adding five rebounds, four assists and four steals, Collison nearly singlehandedly engineered the Mavericks to a victory over the reigning Western Conference champions, hitting a one-legged 3-pointer to send the game into overtime as time expired in regulation while Nowitzki struggled to just nine points on 3-of-11 from the field in his second outing of the season.
Still, as the 25-year-old is quick to remind anyone that will listen, the Mavs didn’t come away with the win. And with another opportunity to add a notch in the win column coming just 24 hours later, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle will look for the same aggressive style from Collison against a Denver team that is just 7-13 this season on the road.
“Collison was terrific,” Carlisle said with high regard for the play of the budding star. “Tremendous at both ends. And the way he played [Thursday night] is really what we need from him just in terms of his presence in the game, his aggressiveness at both ends of the court and he just had a great impact. And I’m not even talking about the points scored necessarily, although that’s a part of it certainly.”
“I don’t see anything good out of it. You know, we lost the game. I’m about wins and losses,” a modest Collison added. “Regardless of how I played, it don’t mean nothing if you don’t win the game. You know, it was good that I was attacking, but at the same time that’s how it’s always been. It’s always been about wins and losses and we didn’t win the game, so we’ve got to bounce back and get ready for [Friday].”
Meanwhile, it may be both Carlisle’s and Collison’s jobs to get leading scorer O.J. Mayo back on track following a four-game stretch the sharpshooter would much rather forget.
After averaging 20.6 points in the Mavs’ first 25 games, Mayo has clearly struggled while hitting just 10-of-40 from the field and totaling a combined 29 points in the last four outings. And with the Nuggets (16-14) ranking 26th in the league while allowing 101.2 points a night, Friday could be the perfect opportunity for Mayo to return to his early-season form.
“You know, we win and lose as a team,” Carlisle said. “Individual guys struggle, that’s going to happen during an NBA season. And when it does, I’ve got to help those guys do better. It’s on me. … [The Thunder] made some plays and we made some mistakes. We were still right there, but when we needed one stop, we couldn’t get it. When we needed one rebound, we couldn’t get it. When we needed one score, we couldn’t get it. And that’s how this league is, it’s though. We’ve got to do a better job of avoiding those runs that happened against us, but more importantly we’ve got to bounce back [Friday]. That’s where it’s at.”
Note: The Mavericks will return to action Friday night at home against the Denver Nuggets. The game will air locally at 7:30 p.m. CT on Fox Sports Southwest and nationally on NBA TV. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS (6287) or by visiting Mavs.com.