DALLAS – When Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle saw the points-off-turnovers numbers the Phoenix Suns chalked up against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday, he was absolutely amazed.
"These guys turned Minnesota over 25 times for 43 points,’’ Carlisle said. "I’ve never heard of numbers that big.’’
Carlisle hopes the Suns’ points-off-turnovers numbers aren’t as big Monday night when the Mavs (13-11) face Phoenix (11-14) at 7:30 at American Airlines Center.
The Suns are tied for fourth in the NBA in steals with 9.2 per game and are tied for seventh in turnovers forced at 15.8 per contest. Phoenix plays a wide open floor game with a lot of guards and relies on its quickness to create havoc and tilt the scales in their direction.
"They’re one of the league leaders in steals and forced turnovers,’’ Carlisle said. "So we’ve got to take care of the ball.’’
The Mavs will have point guard Deron Williams back for Monday’s game. Williams missed Saturday’s 114-111 home loss to Washington with a stomach illness.
"He’s one of our best players, but that’s no excuse,’’ Carlisle said, referring to the loss to the Wizards. "We laid an egg competitively and we’ve got to turn that around.’’
The Mavs opened the season with a 111-95 road win over the Suns. In that game the Suns only picked up four points off eight Mavs’ turnovers – numbers the Mavs clearly would love to duplicate Monday.
"I think (the Suns are) definitely a different team than we played the first game of the season, so we should definitely expect a different ballgame,’’ Williams said. "They’re playing a lot better.’’
The Mavs know they can’t bank on what happened between them and the Suns on opening day happening again Monday night.
"From the standpoint of the way that game went, they’re going to look at that game and be extremely motivated,’’ Carlisle said. "We got to really be strong at the beginning of the game – all the way through.
"We can’t do what we did the other night (against Washington). After four minutes we were on track defensively to give up 230 points – that’s preposterous. We got to fix it.’’
Fixing it calls for the Mavs to buckle down and both more on both ends of the court. Shining offensive, they know, gets canceled out if they flub things on the defensive side of the floor.
"We need our guys to do more than just make a few shots,’’ Carlisle said. "They’ve got to really compete, get after it defensively, rebound, all that stuff.
"We can’t be a bunch of one-trick ponies out there. We’ve got to be a group of guys ready to compete in all aspects of the game. That didn’t happen against Washington.’’
Wizards guards John Wall and Ramon Sessions combined for 43 points and 22 assists and were 15-of-23 from the field. The Suns’ dynamic guard duo of Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight are even more lethal.
Bledsoe averages 22.3 points, 6.5 assists and is fifth in the NBA in steals with 2.04 per game. Knight averages 20.7 points, 5.4 assists and is 20th in the league in steals with 1.68 per contest.
"They have great guards, so we’re going to have to do a lot of good things as a team,’’ Carlisle said. "Bledsoe, if you look at his stats – wins/losses – is one of the most consistent guards in the league.
"They’re coming in here with some juice, and they play early yesterday (afternoon), so I wouldn’t even count it as a real back-to-back.’’
This is the final game of a three-game home stand for the Mavs, who have dropped their last three games at AAC. Carlisle knows why the Mavs have lost three games in a row in front of their home fans.
"We’re not playing hard enough,’’ he said. "If after four minutes you’re on pace to give up 230 points, you’re not playing.
"A lot of that is on me – I’ve got to get these guys more prepared to play, sub more liberally when we’re not getting it done. But it was embarrassing the other night.
"Washington is a quality team -- taking nothing away from them -- and they did a lot of god things that put us in a big hole. But we were poor.’’
On the road, players always say it’s an us against the world mentality. Does that also hold true at home for the players?
"Ask them,’’ Carlisle said, adding that his team needs to just player harder.
"I’m saying it to everybody today -- play harder,’’ Carlisle said. "You (media) guys play harder, too.
"If you want to fix the problem, get angry and do something about it. That’s the world you live in (today) in the NBA. You’ve got to compete. If you don’t compete, its tough sailing.’’
Dwain Price can be heard every Wednesday from 3-4 on dfwiradio.com