DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Before Monday night’s preseason visit from the Hornets, Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle was asked about his team’s mounting turnover count and the maddeningly “creative’’ ways Dallas had found to cough up the ball – at 19 giveaways per game.
“We’re doing it every way you can do it,” Carlisle deadpanned. “If we were a sex manual, it’d be a best-seller.”
But once the game started, the Mavs went G-rated in the turnover department, committing just 10 in an 87-74 win over New Orleans at the AAC.
O.J. Mayo scored 13 points, Roddy Beaubois looked recovered from an ankle injury by scoring 12, and rookie Jae Crowder continued to earn rave reviews by scoring 12 as well while striding into the starting lineup to fill the vacancy left by Dirk Nowitzki’s absence.
“He is going to play the same way no matter what,’’ Carlisle said in praising Crowder. “He will play the same way whether he is starting or playing 30 seconds or one possession. That’s one of the things we love about him. He’s a winning kind of player. He is into the game and affects it in a lot of positive ways. He made two plays when the game started to get a little close. He laid the ball in a couple of times and those were big plays.”
Nowitzki, of course, underwent arthroscopic knee surgery last week and is expected to miss a month or so. That remains the largest and most ominous Mavericks storyline in this 3-3 preseason; we’re seeing Crowder starting. We’re seeing Vince Carter (11 points here and a 2-guard by trade) playing some 4. We’re seeing Elton Brand, who was acquired to be the backup at the 4 and 5, have to work as the starting center because another veteran newcomer, Chris Kaman, is sidelined along with Dirk with a leg injury.
In the short term, all of that makes it predictable that Dallas is going to struggle on the boards, which it did. Shawn Marion grabbed 12, but in total, the Mavs were outboarded 62-40. Top overall pick Anthony Davis led the way for New Orleans with 17 rebounds. (Marion’s defensive work on Davis represents a Mavs victory, however.)
“Was it really (62-30)?’’ Marion asked afterwards. “Man, they slaughtered us on the boards. They’re big….You’re going to have to give up something. I guess we chose to give up that. Oooh.”
But the Mavs did repair the turnover leak while also determining pace here. Dallas sprinted to a 13-2 lead and settled in with a 25-10 edge at the end of the first quarter. That’s the sort of stat advantage the Mavs will have to seek in the absence of Nowitzki, who throughout his career has developed an Ironman-like reputation for fighting through injuries and healing amazingly quickly from endless amounts of ankle sprains and various other ailments.
The amount of games Dirk has missed throughout his career is staggeringly low. Over his career, Nowitzki has only missed 46 total games over his 14-year career. That’s right behind his former teammate Jason Terry and veteran guard Andre Miller in the NBA-wide category of fewest missed games for 10-year-plus veterans.
That being said, this is knee surgery for Nowitzki. This is something he’s never endured before, and despite his confidence in a quick return (he told us nine days ago that a three-week recovery was not out of the question, even as the club plans for a six-week wait), at 34 his health track record is trending downward.
We can refer to his absurdly low number of missed games throughout his career, but that overall low numbers hides that fact that 13 of his missed games have come in just the past two seasons.
That’s the ominous number the Mavs can do nothing to control.
The turnover number? That is controllable and here, Dallas did just the right thing: Be self-effacing about it before the game and fix it during the game.
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