The Dallas Mavericks are a few days away from the start of the 2016-17 season.
In that short time span they have one last preseason game to play, a roster to trim, a couple of key players need to complete the healing process, and the starting five must find their groove and figure out how to start each game at a higher level and more aggressive pace than they did Wednesday night.
A lackluster showing in the first 7 minutes of the game against the Houston Rockets – the same team they play in their season home-opener next Friday night – resulted in the Mavs being outscored by 18 and Coach Rick Carlisle calling in the reserve players.
Seth Curry, Dwight Powell, Justin Anderson, Devin Harris and later, Sal Mejri quickly got things going, including a fast 8 points from Anderson, and got the Mavs back into the game. The Mavericks pulled to within one (31-30) midway through the second quarter, but the Rockets used a 12-2 burst to build an 11-point lead (43-32). Houston led by nine (47-38) at the half.
The Mavs’ starting 5 re-entered the game and took advantage of a 25-15 run in the third quarter to get within one point (64-63). But the Rockets once again responded with a 7-0 surge and the Mavs dropped their 4th preseason game 106-91.
“Our starters have to develop an attitude to be effective,” Carlisle said after the loss. “We’re probably not as far away as it feels right now but we’ve got work to do.”
On a positive note, guard Wesley Matthews, injured for much of the second half of last season, boasted a preseason highs of 15 points, five rebounds and four steals in a preseason-high of 26 minutes playing time. He also added a preseason-high-tying two assists. Matthews, who appeared in his fourth game of the 2016 exhibition season, had scored 17 points in his previous three preseason games combined.
Creating a sense of urgency from the jump and working on chemistry is tops on the list of adjustments the Mavs need to make heading into the start of the regular season next week.
The Mavs will also continue finalizing their roster in the days ahead. Free agent center Jaleel Cousins was signed this week and Jameel Warney was waived a week ago for the team’s first roster cut. There are more to come and how they will decide those cuts depends upon several factors Carlisle said.
“A lot of it comes down to performance in games and practices we are looking at very closely as well,” he said. “But the games are where you make or break it.
“When I played, this was always the time of year when I had to be on my best just to make the team so I understand what those guys are going thru very much,” he said of those trying to make the team.
“I empathize with them but on the other hand, you have to get it done or you will have to go to the D League or somewhere else and keep working at it.”
Also important this last week before the season opener is the healing of J.J. Barea, who missed Wednesday’s game with an elbow injury sustained in practice, and Quincy Acy, who missed his third consecutive game with and ankle sprain.
The Mavs, 2-4, play their final preseason game Friday night against the Denver Nuggets. They open the 2016-17 season at the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday, Oct. 26th and play the Rockets in their home opener, Friday, Oct. 28, and again two nights later in Houston.