DALLAS (AP) – Dallas coach Rick Carlisle’s top priorities entering the season are to improve defensively and defend home court better.
The Mavericks did both, plus got a big night from Dirk Nowitzki.
Nowitzki had 28 points and 13 rebounds, Jason Kidd added 12 points and 18 assists, and Dallas beat the Charlotte Bobcats 101-86 on Wednesday night in the opener for both teams.
Dallas was 15th in the league in field goal defense and won 28 home games in 2009-10. This season Carlisle wants his team among the NBA’s top 10 defensive teams with 30-plus home wins.
The Mavericks limited the Bobcats to 39.7 percent from the field. Dallas forced 21 turnovers, leading to 28 points, and finished with 12 steals and five blocked shots.
“Our good offense put us in position to guard better,” said Carlisle, who turned 51 on Wednesday. “We are one game in, but our defensive numbers are better than they have been. It’s the foundation for success.”
Nowitzki went 11 for 13 from the field and converted all six free throws, but Carlisle was just as excited about Nowitzki’s defense.
“He gave us length on defense, which will get overlooked in the numbers,” Carlisle said. “But he did a great job. He worked extremely hard.”
Nowitzki credited center Tyson Chandler, a trade acquisition over the summer who had eight points and eight rebounds in his Mavericks debut, and backup Brendan Haywood for a strong inside defensive presence.
“We were really scrambling out there,” Nowitzki said. “Our center combo will be great all year. Tyson’s all over the place.”
Chandler brings athleticism to the position, something the Mavericks often lacked in the middle last season.
“I’ve got to bring (aggressive play) night in and night out because this team is going to need it,” Chandler said. “We have everything else: scorers, guys who finish, so I have to bring defensive intensity and let my team feed off of it.”
Jason Terry added 22 points and Caron Butler scored 13 for Dallas.
Tyrus Thomas scored 22 points and Gerald Wallace had 16 for the Bobcats, who’ve never beaten the Mavericks in 13 meetings.
Dallas expanded a four-point halftime lead to 72-55 with a 21-10 spurt to open the third quarter, led by Nowitzki’s 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting.
The Mavericks were ahead by 19 in the third quarter and carried an 80-67 advantage into the final quarter.
Charlotte pulled within 84-78 with 6:58 left on D.J. Augustin’s 3-pointer and Wallace’s free throw, but Terry’s short jumper capped a 9-2 run to put Dallas up 93-80 with 5:17 to play.
“We had to fight back early and use a lot of our energy, but in the end we just didn’t have it,” Augustin said.
The Mavs raced to a 16-0 start, opening 7 for 10 from the floor with Nowitzki hitting a 15-footer on Dallas’ first attempt. Charlotte didn’t have a basket until Boris Diaw’s layup with 6:12 left.
“We talked about getting better starts,” Nowitzki said. “I really liked the effort. The energy was there.”
The Bobcats got their offense untracked, slicing the deficit to 25-21 after one quarter.
Charlotte used a 25-4 first-half run to take a 31-27 lead, but Dallas closed the second quarter with an 8-1 spurt for a 49-45 edge at the break.
“For us to come back and close the second quarter with a lead and on a positive note, that was good,” Kidd said.
(© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)