Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Dallas Mavericks [Print without images]

Friday, January 27, 2012
W2W4: Mavs' D looks to get it back together

By Jeff Caplan



DALLAS --In their seven home games prior to Wednesday's 15-point loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Dallas Mavericks allowed an average of just 80.1 points a game.

And then Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love paced the T'Wolves to 105 points, dropping Dallas' surprising strong defense from third to fourth in the league, but still giving up fewer than 90 points a game.

"We didn’t compete at a high enough level," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "We competed. It wasn’t at the level we needed to be at. Look, we took a dip [Wednesday] night. We took a step back in some areas. [Thursday was] all about getting that resolved and understanding that we’ve got to get it back up."

Next up is the surprisingly hot-starting Utah Jazz, who will play just their sixth road game of the season. The Jazz dropped a physical, hard-nosed game to the Mavs at their place a week ago and will be looking for payback against a vulnerable Dallas team that will be without Dirk Nowitzki (sore right knee) for a fourth consecutive game, but might get Vince Carter (sprained left foot) back.

The Mavs, 7-3 at home, haven't dropped consecutive games on their home floor since the first two days of the season.

"It’s a different kind of team," Carlisle said of the Jazz. "[Wednesday] night was almost all pick-and-roll. There was a little bit of post-up stuff, but not much. [Tonight] it will be very post-up oriented with [Al] Jefferson and [Paul] Millsap.

Records: Jazz (10-6); Mavs (11-8)

When: 7:30 p.m.

Where: American Airlines Center

TV: FSSW

Radio: ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)

What to watch: It seemed the Mavs on Wednesday night were finally going to snap their habit of early hot shooting only to watch their shooting percentage gradually drop and drop and drop until finishing up in low 40 percentile. It didn't happen. Dallas shot 52 percent in the first quarter against the Timberwolves and finished at 41.1 percent. Dallas is now 23rd in the league in shooting percentage. Such consistently low shooting percentages puts heavy pressure on the defense to shut down the opposition every night, a very tough task against good teams. Right now, Utah certainly falls in that category.

Key matchup: Paul Millsap vs. Lamar Odom
With Dirk Nowitzki still on the mend, the spotlight is on Odom to produce. In his last two games starting for Nowitzki, Odom has been benched. The Mavs desperately need the reigning sixth man of the year to show up on both ends of the court. Millsap has the ability to control a game and Odom will be challenged to ratchet his intensity to a level he has yet to show this season.

Injuries: Jazz - G Raja Bell (knee, back) is questionable; C Al Jefferson (right ankle) is questionable. Mavs - F Dirk Nowitzki (sore right knee) is out; G Vince Carter (sprained left foot ) is questionable.

Up next: San Antonio Spurs at Mavs, 5:30 p.m., Sunday