"I'm sure they'll be happy to see us," quipped Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle regarding his team's stop at his old haunt Wednesday night to start a four-game road trip.
Carlisle is not happy with his team's defensive efforts of late. Although the 117-107 loss to the Orlando Magic on Saturday snapped the Mavs' 11-game streak of holding opponents to less than 100 points, Dallas' defense, which propelled them to a 24-5 start, has dropped off. No longer do the Mavs rank in the top five in scoring defense or field-goal percentage.
The Mavs were on a five-game winning streak when Dirk Nowitzki went down on Dec. 27. Caron Butler was lost for the season with a knee injury on Jan. 1. During their 2-5 slump without Nowitzki, Dallas has slipped to seventh in scoring defense (94.0 ppg) and eighth in field-goal percentage defense (44.2).
Three of the past seven opponents have shot 49.0 percent or better. Six have shot 46.0 percent or better.
"We need to focus on our defense and rebounding. That's going to have to be a constant for us to be successful, regardless of our personnel," Carlisle said following the Orlando loss. "I sound like a broken record, but that's how get into transition, that's how we get into the flow game, which is going to be our forte right now."
Point guard Jason Kidd said that in the last couple of games, in which Oklahoma City shot 47.0 percent and Orlando shot 51.9 percent, defensive breakdowns with players manning different spots because of the injuries to Nowitzki and Butler, are a matter of trust.
"I think that maybe the one thing we’ve kind of lacked the last couple of games is we kind of don’t trust each other defensively if we mistake instead of just communicating and working it out," Kidd said. "I think every team goes through it. The best teams and probably some of the worst teams, you go through a stretch during the season where you make some mistakes and you start not trusting and going back to old habits, and we just have to tighten that up and make sure that it doesn’t go longer than a week."