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Saturday, January 29, 2011
Bench lifts offense in Mavs' time of need

By Jeff Caplan

DALLAS -- It's no coincidence that the Dallas Mavericks' bench has been on fire as the team has recorded consecutive season-highs of 112 and 111 points in their last two games.

Dallas' reserves have scored half of the team's two-game total, including 63 points in Tuesday's win over the Los Angeles Clippers and 49 in Thursday's win over the Houston Rockets. Jason Terry and J.J. Barea have provided 87 of 112 bench points, with Shawn Marion adding 20.

"Our team is structured to have a really good bench," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "We need a lot of productivity from them. We need them to provide balance to our starters. We don’t necessarily start our five best players. So, when we sub, we expect to get better, at least offensively."

That the Mavs have recorded such high point totals when Dirk Nowitzki has not been shooting well since returning from a sprained right knee is even more indicitive of how critical bench scoring is to the Mavs' overall success.

The Mavs prefer to bring Terry and Marion off the bench and match them up against the opponents' second team. In a more traditional alignment, Terry would start at shooting guard and Marion would start at small forward. Instead, the Mavs have used DeShawn Stevenson at shooting guard, and recently Sasha Pavlovic (who will be playing in his final game of his second 10-day contract tonight against the Atlanta Hawks) at small forward in the wake of Caron Butler's season-ending knee injury.

Along with point guard Jason Kidd, the Mavs feature a most unusual starting five in which three players (Pavlovic, Stevenson) average 8.0 points or less, which obviously puts the burden on the bench to score points.

How much burden?

The Mavs are 22-7 when their bench outscores their opponent's, and they're just 8-8 when outscored.

According to ESPN Stats & Research, Dallas' bench (36.1 points a game) ranks fifth in the league in scoring behind Philadelphia (39.8), Detroit (39.1), Phoenix (37.3) and Denver (36.7).