Rockets will make Mavs pay for slow start
However, should is the operative word.
Fast starts have been in short supply for the Mavs, even in their two-high scoring home wins against the two teams from Los Angeles. The Clippers on Tuesday made eight of their first 10 shots and was close to 70 percent from the floor for the entire first half. It wasn't until a second-half surge at both ends -- combined with mindless Clippers turnovers -- before the Mavs got back in the game and took it over.
It's just another aspect of the Mavs' game that took a hike during their injury-plagued swoon and has yet to resurface.
"That's the kind of energy we need to play with to compete in this league," Nowitzki said of the second half when Dallas outscored the Clips, 58-43. "Now, we're just not good enough to coast and win games, so we realize we have to play hard in the first half as well, get some stops, get our running game going, and that's when we're at our best."
So, why has it been so difficult to get things in gear early on?
"I don't know. Maybe focus wasn't there, I can't really tell you what's going on," Nowitzki said. "But, at least we turned it around at the half. Energy was great. Hopefully we can build on that."
One thing about the Rockets, they might not be the team they once were, but they are not the Clippers (which played without leading scorer Eric Gordon) or Saturday's victim, the New Jersey Nets. Both those teams often can't get out of their own way. The Rockets are one of the hardest-playing teams in the league and will make their opponent fight and scrap for everything.
They scored 56 against the Clippers in the first half Wednesday night in Houston and held them 83 points, 22 fewer than the Mavs' defense managed two do two nights earlier. Houston is fourth in the league in scoring (105.3), which without a solid defensive effort from Dallas could be problematic considering the Mavs have scored 100 or more just three times in the last 15 games and have been under 90 in three of them.
However, both of those 100-point games, 109 against the Lakers and a season-high 112 against the Clippers, have come in the last two home games. Houston tends to get off to quick starts and it's a subject Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said he talked to his team about after the Clippers game and again during Wednesday's practice.
"It's an area we need to do better, it's a priority for us right now," Carlisle said. "There's some things -- and a lot of of it is communication, focus. With the team we have been starting, being good defensively is a real key because we have some of our best defensive players in the game. When you don't get off to a good defensive start it puts you in a hole offensively. One thing is kind of a negative feedback thing on the other."
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett at Mavericks media day to discuss his expectations for the upcoming season.
Play Podcast Mark Cuban joins Galloway and Company to discuss the Mavericks' new GM Gersson Rosas and much more.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss Mark Cuban's comments from Las Vegas about the Mavericks' offseason, how he sees the team without Dwight Howard and more.
Play Podcast Marc Stein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why the Mavericks didn't want to match Cleveland's offer to Andrew Bynum, what's next for the Mavs and the possibility of Dirk Nowitzki ending his career elsewhere.
Play Podcast Jeff Platt fires quick-hitters at Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon in the weekly sports standoff about Andrew Bynum, the Mavs' current backcourt, a potential Nelson Cruz suspension and more.
Play Podcast ESPN Los Angeles' Ramona Shelburne joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why she thinks Andrew Bynum got a bad rap in Los Angeles and how he would fit in with the Mavericks.
Play Podcast Buy, sell or hold? If Dwight Howard goes to another team, what are the Mavs' options? The guys take a look at a list of potential fallback options.
Play Podcast ESPN's Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the latest news on the Mavericks' meeting with Dwight Howard.