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Dirk: 'D' should be there in playoffs

PHOENIX -- The Dallas Mavericks believe they are regaining a defensive presence that should serve them well in lower-scoring, tightly contested play0ff games.

The jury is still out on that as Dallas has taken advantage of a string of games against the Western Conference's lottery-bound teams. Prior to the start of this six-game road trip that began with a 94-77 win at the Utah Jazz on Saturday night and continued with a 91-83 win at the Phoenix Suns on Sunday night, Dirk Nowitzki had this to say about a defense that was allowing more than 102 points a game over the last two months.

"We've got to get back to everybody being on the same page defensively and getting some stops," Nowitzki said. "I still have confidence that this team ultimately can be a good defensive team in the playoffs because we are long, we've got veteran guys, experienced, smart guys. Roddy [Beaubois] should be a good defender for us on the perimeter with his length and quickness from the guard spot. Trix [Shawn Marion] is one of the best defenders at the small forward that there is in this league, so it's just about helping each other and scrambling."

Since the start of February, Dallas has allowed its opponent to shoot 46 percent or better in half of 26 games. In the last 11 games, it's only happened three times.

"Sometimes you get broken down," Nowitzki said. "Individual players are too good and their schemes are too good. Sometimes you're just going to get broken down. That's when you have to scramble and play for each other, get on the same page, help the helper, recover, fly out to the 3-point shooter. And what's been an issue the last couple of months has been finishing the possession off with a defensive rebound. Big, physical teams, sometimes that's where they got us."

Still, Nowitzki added: "I don't see why we shouldn't be a good defensive team in the playoffs."

In the first two games of this road trip, Utah and Phoenix both shot right at 42 percent overall and each's percentage dropped significantly as the game wore on. The Mavs outscored the Jazz 26-7 to break open a close game late and the Suns had trouble finding open looks in the final 6:48 and the score tied 79-79, managing one field goal in that span and a pair of free throws.

"The last couple of games our defense has had to really step up and we've had to challenge ourselves, center Tyson Chandler said. "We had to buckle down and understand what it was going to take for us to win and not just win now, but what it's going to take when it's critical and that's going to be our defense. Of late, we've been out there communicating better and as long as we're communicating it makes things a lot easier for us all."