During a three day break Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, along with working on defense, discussed the need for the team to continue to be persistent. Carlisle, who had called his team “soft”, apparently feels that the Mavs need to focus upon a relentless determination, a constant effort that will not wane when the team is trailing or up by a large margin.
Against the Timberwolves, the team got out to another slow start. While they did, indeed, continue to fight the entire game, eventually standing victorious, this cannot be what Carlisle had in mind. Too many times it feels like the players don’t really get into the game until the second quarter. Perhaps it takes them that long to get loose and warmed up.
Perhaps they, like the Lakers, are bored by the regular season (let’s hope that is NOT it! I could go off on a huge rant about that one). Whatever the reason, Carlisle is trying to light a fire under this team. He shook up the lineup by giving Shawn Marion the start at small forward. And Marion responded with eight points in the first quarter, keeping the Mavs in the contest.
Carlisle has said that he wants to use the last dozen games to get the playoff rotation set. So it was interesting to see Roddy Beaubois get the start but only fifteen minutes of playing time. Is this what we can expect in the playoffs? Did Carlisle feel that Roddy was a poor matchup against the worst team in the league? Was Roddy being punished for lack of effort or poor execution? While we are left wondering why, Jason Terry saw the majority of the playing time with over thirty minutes on the court. He responded well by scoring 18 points, 3 assists, and 2 boards.
If Thursday’s game was any indication, DeShawn Stevenson will not have a large role in the playoffs barring someone else getting injured. Even Brian Cardinal saw more minutes than Stevenson. Marion and Peja Stojakovic will be splitting the minutes at SF almost evenly. JET and Peja are going to play the key roles coming off the bench. They will be counted upon to provide scoring and bring energy off the bench.
And they will be counted on to do the same tonight in Utah. The Mavs have the best road record in the NBA, an impressive 24 wins against just 10 losses. The Mavs have not lost to the Jazz this season and are looking to sweep them tonight at Salt Lake. The Jazz will be fired up for this one as they need to win just about every game they play from this point forward if they are going to have a chance to make it into the playoffs.
It won’t be easy for the Jazz with Devin Harris and Andrei Kirilenko possibly out for the game. This might be good news for the Mavs, or it may not be. See their struggles against the Kevin Love-less T-Wolves for proof that a team without their star can still be dangerous.
The Mavs need to start this road trip on a positive note. Things will not get any easier with Phoenix tomorrow, the Clippers on Wednesday, and the Lakers on Thursday. The Mavs need to continue to build momentum as they attempt to catch the Lakers and nail down the second spot in the West.
A four game winning streak and some positive juice going before they play the Lakers could go a long way towards achieving their goal. But they must not overlook the Jazz tonight. Here’s hoping that Dirk and the boys take care of business tonight. I believe Maverick fans will wake up tomorrow happy with win number 51 in the books!