Preview: Portland Trail Blazers (2-1) at Dallas Mavericks (2-1); Mavs welcome Stotts, Aldridge, Lillard to Big D
Earl K. Sneed previews the Dallas Mavericks' Monday night matchup against Portland, as former assistant Terry Stotts, Seagoville native LaMarcus Aldridge and rookie Damian Lillard travel to Big D.
DALLAS — While most expected the Dallas Mavericks to get off to a slow start without 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki following his arthroscopic knee surgery on Oct. 19, the team itself did not.
Starting the season with a 99-91 road victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, the Mavericks quickly turned the rest of the NBA into believers even with Nowitzki and center Chris Kaman (strained right calf) both sidelined.
Now, after rebounding from a 113-94 loss in Utah with a 126-99 home rout of Charlotte on Saturday night, the Mavericks (2-1) will try to continue to prove their naysayers wrong as they proceed through a three-game homestand.
“As a competitor, you want to prove people wrong,” point guard Darren Collison explained. “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.”
“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,” fellow newcomer O.J. Mayo added. “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 (on Nowitzki’s legs) and it’s our job to hold down the fort a little bit.”
Both Collison and Mayo have done their parts, as the lead guard has posted at least 17 points in all three of the team’s games thus far, tallying up 18 points on 8-of-12 from the field and dishing out 10 assists in Saturday night’s win. Meanwhile, Mayo broke out with an epic performance against the Bobcats, scoring a game-high 30 points on 10-for-17 shooting and setting a career-high for made 3-pointers after going 7-for-10 from behind the arc.
Behind Mayo’s hot shooting, the Mavericks also connected on a franchise-best 64 percent from 3-point range in the win, hitting 16-of-25 shots from deep and overcoming their own 22 turnovers.
“You make 16 3s, you’re not going to lose many games, and it was a bit of a deodorant for some of our other transgressions,” Rick Carlisle confessed after collecting his 200th win as Mavericks coach. “We look to make strides, mild as they may be, and get better. We got better in some areas and there are other areas we’ve got to keep working at obviously.”
Even after Kaman returned to the lineup to score 16 points on 8-of-9 from the floor, the backcourt’s production may again be counted upon Monday night against All-Star big man and Seagoville native LaMarcus Aldridge, rookie standout Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers. In the return of former assistant and offensive coordinator Terry Stotts to Big D for the first time since taking the head coaching job in Portland (2-1), the Dallas defense won’t be able to just load up on Aldridge inside thanks to the emergence of Lillard.
Through three games, Lillard is already in elite company, joining Oscar Robertson as the second rookie in league history to start his career with three straight games of at least 20 points and seven assists. The first-year stud will now be at the center of Dallas’ game plan, according to Carlisle, as the Mavs look to claim their first consecutive wins of the young season.
“We’ve gotta throw the kitchen sink at him,” Carlisle matter-of-factly said of the plan to slowing down Lillard. “He’s that good. And, you know, it’s a very challenging game. In terms of precision and efficiency, these guys are the best offensive team we’ve seen. Just all-around skill, the 3-point shot, an All-Star player in the post, pick-and-pops with Aldridge, I mean, they’re really, really good.”
“You just hope he had a bad night’s sleep, didn’t get his nap and is not feeling well,” eight-time All-Star Vince Carter jokingly added on slowing down Lillard. “Just watching him, a lot of confidence and they believe in him and know that he’s big for the franchise. When they tell you that, you can just go out there and play basketball. So, for us, it’s just stay in front of him, contest his shots and make it tough for him.”
Note: The Mavs continue their three-game homestand Monday night against the Portland Trail Blazers. The game will air locally at 7:30 p.m. CT on Fox Sports Southwest. Tickets for the game remain available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS or by visiting Mavs.com.