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News » Opening dud Same old problem for new-look Mavs: Not enough defense

Opening dud Same old problem for new-look Mavs: Not enough defense

Opening dud Same old problem for new-look Mavs: Not enough defense A few off-season moves can dramatically alter an NBA team's ability to attack the basket. That's what the Mavericks were hoping this summer, and that's what we saw Tuesday night.

Too bad the team that, for one night, made all the right moves was the Washington Wizards.

There are at least two pieces of good news to be gained from a season-opening 102-91 loss at home to a team that lost 63 games last season.

One is that the Mavericks now share the same record at home as the Cavaliers, and I'm pretty certain they haven't completely given up on a title run in Cleveland after Tuesday's loss to Boston.

The other is that in my copious research for fantasy Basketball, I purchased a magazine that actually picked the Wizards to win the Southeast Division - a considerable jump for a team that finished 40 games behind Orlando last season.

But truly the Wizards' offensive-based additions of Mike Miller and Randy Foye from Minnesota along with Gilbert Arenas' return from a serious knee injury make Washington a far different team from last year's cellar dweller.

How different are the Mavericks ?

We have a long time to try and figure that out, but clearly the arrival of Shawn Marion and Drew Gooden won't answer all of Dallas' problems right away.

Mostly, the Mavs opened the season looking a lot like what we have seen around here. Dirk Nowitzki scored 34 but didn't have one of his better shooting nights. The offensive energy came from J.J. Barea (13 points, six rebounds, four assists) as it often does.

But it was clear in the Denver series last spring that the Mavericks just weren't quite good enough at the defensive end of the floor. Since then, not much that was done here was designed to change that.

Quinton Ross is expected to be a better stopper of shooting guards than Antoine Wright but not by any huge degree. And if Gooden eventually ends up playing more in the post and giving Dallas a smaller, quicker look than it has with Erick Dampier, that's certainly not being done as a defensive upgrade.

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said it took his first Mavericks team a long, long time to establish its identity last season. That may not change.

"We knew we needed to be a flow team because we had Jason Kidd, but flow teams are not typically good defensively," Carlisle said. "So we had to find a way to become a running team but one that could also get back and make stops defensively."

The Mavericks didn't make enough of those Tuesday as Arenas and Caron Butler combined for 45 points, and the Wizards hurt Dallas inside with power forward Andray Blatche scoring 20 off the bench.

The Wizards shot 46.4 percent which is right around the acceptable level - you would like to hold opponents below 45.

But you have to figure the Wizards are a serious work in progress given all the change they have taken on under new coach Flip Saunders. So the Mavericks are going to have to find a way to get up to speed quickly at the defensive end when they are facing the Lakers in Los Angeles on Friday or coming back home next week to play Utah.

It's a sure bet the points will come. Marion had 16 points and didn't make the only 3-pointer he attempted. Gooden was limited to two points on 1-of-6 shooting. Josh Howard, of course, didn't dress due to his ankle injury.

Those three will provide offense, in some cases sooner rather than later.

As has always been the case going back to the Don Nelson days, the challenge is in finding a defense sound enough to keep the offense from doing all the heavy lifting.

Dallas shot 39.5 percent Tuesday, so the offense wasn't close enough to midseason form in this one. So a little defense against a Wizards team that won just 19 times last season wasn't nearly enough.

On a side note, I have never been able to figure out why the NBA doesn't attempt to make a bigger deal about the opening night of the season. It's an oversight or a failing that, with this defeat, the Mavericks will gladly allow to continue.

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Author: Fox Sports
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Added: October 29, 2009


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