The biggest question heading into Game 2 of the Dallas Mavericks’ Western Conference first-round playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs is whether coach Rick Carlisle will insert Devin Harris into the starting lineup in place of overmatched point guard Jose Calderon.
That question will be center stage Wednesday night as the Mavericks hope to finally snap a 10-game losing streak to their I-35 rivals.
While Carlisle acknowledged they have worked on some tweaks to help overcome the stranglehold the Spurs have over the Mavericks the past two seasons, he refused to discuss any potential lineup changes. And certainly not two days before tip-off of Game 2 in San Antonio.
“We’re going to approach it the way we approach it, doing it the way we feel is best,” Carlisle said following practice Monday at American Airlines Center. “If we get to the point where I feel major lineup changes are in order, we’ll do it, but I’m not going to talk about it two days before the game.”
Forward and team leader Dirk Nowitzki was even stronger in his support for the status quo, saying no changes to the starting lineup are necessary.
“We’re rolling the way we’re set up,” Nowitzki said. “Jose has been our starter the whole year. We’ve got to start the game off a little better. I think we were a little slow and we were down eight or 10 pretty quick there in the first quarter, so we’ve got to be a little better there.
“Jose is our starter. He’s the guy that puts us in our plays and we’re rolling with him.”
Even if Calderon starts, look for Harris to get more minutes.
That’s certainly how it played out Sunday during Game 1.
Even though the Mavericks lost 90-85, Harris proved to be a difference-maker and nearly led them to victory, despite off nights from leading scorers Nowitzki and guard Monta Ellis.
Harris played 32 minutes and scored 19 points, including three 3-pointers, while dishing out five assists to more than hold his own against Spurs All-Star guard Tony Parker.
Calderon, who is an acknowledged defensive liability against the quicker and more athletic Spurs, missed his first four shots before finishing with seven points on 3-of-9 shooting.
He was replaced by Harris five minutes into the game and played only 16 minutes total, sitting out the entire fourth quarter.
“I thought we saw a lot of him [Sunday],” Nowitzki said of the possibility of seeing more of Harris in Game 2. “He brings quickness. He brings drive to the basket. He bring defense. All the stuff you need against a very good team. He is very athletic. He played an all-around good game.
“Devin is a good change of pace to Jose. We still need Jose. We are going to need him to step into the shots. They are going to run him off the [3-point line] as we expected. He has to make some of the pull-ups and in-between shots. He took a bunch. He has to step into them.”
Carlisle said Calderon played better in the second half against the Spurs and wants him to continue playing his game and staying aggressive.
Harris averaged roughly 20 minutes per game since joining the Mavericks in January following toe surgery. The 32 minutes was out of the norm, but not something Carlisle is uncomfortable with moving forward.
Still, Carlisle likes him coming off the bench and giving a boost to the second unit — where the Mavericks had a decided advantage against the Spurs.
“It’s been one of our strengths,” Carlisle said of Harris’ impact with the second unit. “He’s been one of our keys to our team since late January, early February when he came back.
“NBA games are long. There is a lot going on out there. We have a deep roster. We need every single guy on the roster. It’s my job to plug those guys in.”