Rick Carlisle would not be drawn into a debate on whether or not Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are the best 1-2 duo in the NBA.
“I’d put them up at the very top of the list with whoever else is a good one-two punch,” the Mavericks coach said. “But the last thing I want to do is [tick] anybody off by saying one one-two punch is better than another.
“We don’t need that. We’ve got enough challenges as is it.”
Carlisle and the Mavericks face the challenge of slowing down Durant and Westbrook when the Mavs (39-27) face the Thunder (48-17) at 6 p.m. Sunday at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
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Durant leads the NBA in scoring at 31.8 points per game, and also averages 7.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists. Westbrook is averaging 21.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, 7.1 assists and 2.0 steals per game.
“They’re two great players; that’s undeniable,” Carlisle said. “But they come at you with an unusual dynamic, athleticism and skill set.”
Forward Shawn Marion will likely split time guarding Durant and Westbrook.
Jae Crowder, who went through a full practice session Saturday for the first time after missing the past two games with a mild abdominal strain, could also see some playing time guarding Durant.
“We’ve got to try to take the ball out of Westbrook’s and Durant’s hands as much as possible,” Marion said.
Point guard Jose Calderon knows it’s going to be extra challenging for the Mavs to try and keep pace with Westbrook.
“It’s a challenge every day you step on the court in the NBA,” Calderon said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s Westbrook or [Golden State’s] Stephen Curry or [Portland’s] Damian Lillard.
“But Westbrook, he’s been great. Since he returned from his injury he’s been playing with a lot of confidence, he’s fast and he can do a lot of things.”
Westbrook’s exceptional speed and Durant’s uncanny ability to use his superior height are reasons why the Mavs will give this dynamic duo different looks defensively throughout the game.
“But like I always said, it’s going to be always about the team,” Calderon said.
Larkin up, Mekel down
The Mavericks recalled rookie point guard Shane Larkin from the D-League’s Texas Legends on Saturday, then shipped rookie point guard Gal Mekel down to play for the Frisco-based team.
Larkin, in his fourth stint for the Legends this season, contributed 22 points and 11 assists during Friday’s victory over the Maine Red Claws.
In four games for the Legends this year, Larkin is averaging 15.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists in 35.8 minutes per game.
Mekel, meanwhile, has averaged 9.3 points, 3.0 rebounds and 6.3 assists in 27.7 minutes in three games for the Legends.