Due in part to a bevy of injuries, the Dallas Mavericks have not been as good offensively as they usually are. Their play on defense, though, has not suffered.
The Mavericks look to continue that trend when they host the Golden State Warriors.
Dallas averaged no fewer than 99 points per game in any of the first four months of the season and scored a season-high 101.9 per game in February, but that average has gone down to 93.8 in March while the team battles through injury problems.
Josh Howard (hamstring), Devin Harris (thigh), Adrian Griffin (hamstring) and Keith Van Horn (knee) all have missed at least the last five games. Coach Avery Johnson does not expect any of those players, who account for 39.3 points per game, to return this weekend and he might not have all of them healthy until the season’s final five games.
However, those absences have not hurt the Mavs defensively because the team is holding opponents to a league-low 89.5 points per game this month.
“We don’t want to make excuses,” Dallas center Erick Dampier said. “Even though those guys are out, we have to put five guys out on the floor. I think this team is good enough and deep enough to still go out there and compete and win a couple of games.”
Dallas held red-hot Houston center Yao Ming to 13 points—less than half his average this month—and forced 17 turnovers in an 88-72 victory over the Rockets on Tuesday. It matched the fewest points allowed this season by the Mavs, who limited Houston to 14 points in the second quarter.
“Getting stops is the key to our defense,” said Dampier, who had nine points and nine rebounds. “If we come out and play good defense each and every night, we’re going to give ourselves a chance to win.”
Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavs with 28 points, one shy of the rest of the team’s starters combined. He has helped Dallas win four of five, averaging 30.0 points in that span, while staying in a tight battle with San Antonio for the best record in the Western Conference.
Golden State did not help Dallas’ cause on Tuesday, losing 107-96 to the Spurs.
“We need stops and we didn’t get any of them,” said Warriors forward Mike Dunleavy, who had 11 points and eight rebounds. “We didn’t move the ball. If you want to win ball games you have to move the ball. We just need to focus on the little things.”
It was the start of a brutal three-game road trip for Golden State, which faces the West’s top two teams before Sunday’s matchup against a Sacramento squad which has won 14 straight at home.
The Warriors are playing without second-leading scorer Baron Davis, who has missed the last three games because of an ankle sprain. It’s uncertain when he will return.