Fouls aplenty puts focus squarely on defense

DALLAS -- Defense is going to be a constant hot topic with the new-look Dallas Mavericks. In Sunday night's preseason pummeling by the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Mavs, a top 10 defense last season in scoring and field goal percentage, offered up 106 points, 56.4 percent shooting and 41 trips to the foul line.

Now, take into consideration that Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd did not play and the Thunder led the league last season in free throw attempts.

Still, games like that won't make coach Rick Carlisle a happy man.

"My assessment of the game was that our defense is going to have to be better, obviously," Carlisle said after the 14-point loss in which the Thunder led 90-67 late in the third quarter and shot 90 percent for a large chunk of the period.

It is certainly going to be a transition for the Mavs with their big man in the middle is now doing his thing for the New York Knicks. And don't underestimate the defensive job that DeShawn Stevenson did, especially in the postseason.

Troubling about Sunday night's defensive effort was that key players found themselves in early foul trouble. Delonte West, the player needed to keep Kidd's minutes down, picked up three quick fouls, had four by halftime and finished with five. Lamar Odom had four fouls, Vince Carter finished with four and center Ian Mahinmi, set to become the primary backup as the roster stands for the first time in his career, had five fouls to match his five rebounds in 25 minutes.

The Mavs committed just three more fouls than the Thunder, but OKC's aggressiveness afforded it nine more free throw attempts as it outscored Dallas 34-24 at the foul line. Kevin Durant, not surprisingly, led the charge, making 13-of-14.

"One of the challenges we have, particularly when you play Oklahoma City, is they're a team you have to be in a contain mode on just because they're so great attacking from virtually every position," Carlisle said. "They went to Durant at the 4 [power forward] early in the first half and that's extremely difficult, and the they have three other fast guys and a center out there. So, this is the kind of work you need to get better. They expose you."