Starters play well together, but Mavericks fall to Rockets

Posted Monday, Oct. 21, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Well, that didn’t last long.

For the first time this preseason, Rick Carlisle was excited because he had his entire starting lineup on the floor at the same time. But the excitement didn’t last long.

The Dallas Mavericks’ starters played all of 14 minutes and 48 seconds together. And that wasn’t nearly enough to overcome the Houston Rockets, who prevailed 100-95 Monday night at the Toyota Center.

While they were on the court together, starters Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Jose Calderon, Monta Ellis and Samuel Dalembert combined to outscore their Rockets’ counterparts, 31-22. Overall, though, Carlisle knows there are some things that need to be patched up before the regular season starts in eight days.

“We did some good things,” Carlisle said. “We’ve got to get better in some areas.

“We’ve got to get better with taking care of the ball, particularly in critical possessions. We looked tired tonight to me. We looked like our energy wasn’t where it needed to be.”

The Mavs’ starting five played the first 7:34 together and led 19-14, with Calderon scoring 11 of those points. Then, that unit played the initial 7:14 of the second half as they outscored the Rockets’ first unit, 12-8.

“We did good,” said Calderon, who converted 6-of-10 shots. “We had some good stuff, some bad stuff.

“I think for the first time we’ve got to be positive — they’re a pretty good team. We were moving the ball. We were finding the open guy.”

The Mavs (3-3) built as much as a nine-point lead during the second quarter, but the inside work of Dwight Howard combined with the Rockets’ sharp shooting from 3-point range (13-of-28) helped do in the Mavs.

“This is the best team we’ve seen in person by far, and we’ve seen some good teams,” Carlisle said. “This is going to be one of the top teams in the league.”

Nowitzki wasn’t around at the end because he was issued a flagrant 2 foul and was subsequently ejected with 24.5 seconds left in the third period for walloping Omri Casspi on the head during a drive to the basket.

Calderon led the Mavs with 14 points and three assists, Dalembert finished with 13 points, seven rebounds, three blocks and two steals, and Nowitzki had 11 points, four boards, four blocks and two steals.

Dalembert and Nowitzki were matched against the Rockets’ front wall of Omer Asik and Howard. Howard collected 15 points, 17 rebounds and three steals, and Asik finished with four points and nine boards.

“Me and Dirk and the big men, we really held ourselves inside,” Dalembert said. “We could have done a better job inside with second-chance points.”

Ellis (3-of-13, eight points, seven assists) and Marion (3-of-11, six points, six rebounds) both struggled.

It’s clear the Mavs have plenty of work to do before the Oct. 30 season opener against the Atlanta Hawks, who also are at American Airlines Center on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

“The days and games are going to come quickly and the season’s going to come quickly,” said Carlisle, whose team lost the rebounding battle 54-42 and committed 18 turnovers. “So we’ve got a lot to do in a short period of time.”

Dwain Price, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @dwainprice

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