HOUSTON – A terrible trend which dogged the Dallas Mavericks in a lot of games during the regular season surfaced again in their playoff opener against the Houston Rockets last Saturday.
Too many times during the regular season the Mavs would fall behind early, the bench would get them back in the game, then the starters would open the third quarter and fall behind again. That happened in Game 1 of this first-round playoff series against the Rockets, and must be corrected when the Mavs face Houston in Game 2 tonight at 8:30 at the Toyota Center.
"I just think we can’t fall in a hole early again,’’ forward Dirk Nowitzki said after Tuesday morning’s shootaround. "Usually the home team is pumped up and they made a few plays early and really got the crowd involved, and then we have to fight there in the second quarter, or even the first quarter.’’
Houston jumped out to a 19-6 lead with 6:16 still remaining in the first quarter. The Mavs’ reserves came on and eventually Dallas led 44-42 with 3:42 to go in the first half.
The Rockets clung to a 59-55 lead at intermission, and then blew that lead out to 78-64 with 6:33 left in the third period of a game Houston win 118-108.
"We had to fight to keep it close and then get back in the second. We’d love to stay close at the beginning and then make it a game.’’
Coach Rick Carlisle said his has to continue playing aggressive, but pay more attention to detail and that may enable them to tie this series at 1-1.
"I thought we played hard in Game 1 -- I didn’t think we played particularly well in Game 1,’’ Carlisle said. "We’re just going to have to improve some in a lot of little areas, and that’s going to make a difference for us.
"We’ve got to take it down a couple of turnovers, we’ve got to get a couple of more loose balls, and we’ve got to get a few more better screens. You can go down a whole laundry list of things -- the playoffs are generally not just one thing.’’
The Rockets scored 29 fast break points and also had 23 points off 17 Mavs turnovers. Those two numbers, the Mavs pointed out, must take a nose dive in order for them to win tonight.
"We’ve got to continue to do a job in transition,’’ center Tyson Chandler said. "Defensively, a few tweaks, offensively, we’ve got to continue to keep pressure on them.’’.
Being crisp with their offensive execution while protecting the ball would allow the Mavs to apply some pressure to the Rockets’ defense.
"We had some turnovers there, we weren’t sharp on the (defensive) rotations,’’ Nowitzki said. "So it’s just being sharper, being a little quicker when the ball goes up, and keep sharing the ball.
"We had some good looks early that didn’t go down, but we can’t let that frustrate us. We just got to keep going.’’
Carlisle acknowledged that his team must know that everything they went wrong in Game 1 won’t go wrong tonight.
"It’s a long series and we’re going to keep staying the course and playing our system,’’ Carlisle said. "We missed some (shots) we normally make, and they’re going to go in tonight.
"That’s the way we view it.’’