DALLAS – As he watched the Washington Wizards build an 18-point lead and hold on to edge the Houston Rockets on the road Monday night 104-103, several things jumped out at Rick Carlisle.
"They have a strong team in all areas,’’ the Dallas Mavericks coach said of the Wizards. "They’ve got great guard play, their small forwards can all shoot and make plays, and (Paul) Pierce is still a real force as a guy that can score and make plays, and their big guys are plentiful and they’re all very skilled.
"The thing that stuck out was how easily they got out to an 18-point lead when they popped it open in that stretch, and then Houston made a run. This is one of the top teams in the league and you’ve got to play them with a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm, otherwise you’ll get beat.’’
The Mavs (22-10) hope to bring a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm to the court tonight at 7:30 when they host the Wizards (22-8) at American Airlines Center.
More specifically, the Mavs must find a way to contain Wizards point guard John Wall, who averages 17.6 points, leads the NBA in assists (10.4) and is second in steals (2.17). Mavs point guard Rajon Rondo is second in assists with 10.3 per game, so prolific play at the playmaker spots should rein supreme tonight.
"They’re both real quick, they both have great vision,’’ Carlisle said. "And they both are the guys that are the coaches on the floor for their teams.’’
Carlisle knows his team will have some problems if Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal and Wall are able to have their way slicing up the Mavs’ defense and getting inside the paint. That means center Tyson Chandler would have to leave his man and play help defense, which could give Chandler’s man an easy path to the basket.
"A big part of it tonight is keeping guys in front on the perimeter,’’ Carlisle said. "If we can do that, that allows Tyson to stay close to his man.
"If he’s pulled off his man and is doing a lot of helping, we’re going to be in a bind on the boards. So hey, guard our position as well as we can, and offensively we’ve got to get it moved.’’
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760