The Dallas Mavericks' new backcourt duo is helping to pick up the slack in Dirk Nowitzki's absence. Meanwhile, the Portland Trail Blazers' point guard may be the most impressive newcomer in the league thus far.
Three of the most promising young guards in the NBA match up when Dallas hosts Portland on Monday night.
The Mavericks are off to a 2-1 start without Nowitzki, who's expected to miss at least 10 games after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery Oct. 19. They didn't need him in a 126-99 win against Charlotte on Saturday, as the team posted its highest point total since March 10, 2011.
New additions O.J. Mayo and Darren Collison scored 30 and 18, respectively, with Mayo hitting a career-high seven 3-pointers and Collison adding two. Dallas went 16 of 25 from beyond the arc.
The Mavericks' hot long-range shooting helped mask 22 turnovers.
"You make 16 3s, you're not going to lose many games, and it was a bit of a deodorant for some of our other transgressions,'' said coach Rick Carlisle, who became the third coach to win 200 games with the Mavericks, joining Don Nelson and Dick Motta.
"We look to make strides, mild as they may be, and get better."
Mayo is averaging 18.0 points for the first time since his rookie season while hitting 63.2 percent of his 3-pointers. Collison's averages of 17.3 points and 7.0 assists are career highs.
For the Trail Blazers (2-1), point guard Damian Lillard has gotten off to a fast start. He scored eight of his 20 points in overtime Saturday to lift Portland to a 95-85 victory at Houston.
Lillard joined Oscar Robertson as the second rookie in league history to start his career with three straight games of at least 20 points and seven assists. Grant Hill was the last rookie to score at least 20 in his first three.
Lillard, the No. 6 pick in the draft, has combined with LaMarcus Aldridge to give the Trail Blazers a formidable inside-outside duo. Aldridge had 27 points, 11 rebounds and six assists Saturday and is averaging 22.7 points, 9.7 boards and 3.0 assists in the early going - all career bests.
Aldridge would normally be matched up with Nowitzki, but with the Mavs star out, Dallas' frontcourt will lean more heavily on Chris Kaman. The veteran newcomer made his first eight shots and finished with 16 points in his Mavs debut Saturday after missing two weeks with a strained calf.
"I missed the last four preseason games and the first two (regular-season games), so I'm kind of like a new player out there," Kaman said. "I'm just trying to fit in where I can and do what I can do."
Mayo could spend a lot of time being guarded by Wesley Matthews, who helped limit James Harden to 24 points and 8-of-24 shooting after Harden scored 82 in his first two games.
Dallas reserve guard Rodrigue Beaubois sat out Saturday and could be a game-time decision Monday after injuring his ankle in practice Friday.
The teams have split the last six meetings, with the Mavericks winning two of the last three games in Dallas.
- Sports & Recreation
- Dallas Mavericks
- Portland Trail Blazers
- Dirk Nowitzki
- Darren Collison