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News » Strengthening defense Mavs make 'conscious effort' to defend better, see progress already

Strengthening defense Mavs make 'conscious effort' to defend better, see progress already

Strengthening defense Mavs make 'conscious effort' to defend better, see progress already Perhaps it's hard to believe, but the Mavericks' new mantra is strong defense.

For a team that once believed the fastest way to the win column was getting to 100 points, this season's Mavericks have talked defense from the beginning and backed it up on the court.

Even on Saturday night, when the offense finally found a rhythm with swingman Josh Howard making his season debut, forward Shawn Marion attributed the Mavericks' season-high point total in a 129-101 win over Toronto to defense.

"Everything starts with the defensive end. We're all playing defense, and you're seeing it now," Marion said. "The more we keep playing defense and getting stops, it's going to fuel our offense."

Last season, the Mavericks were 18-23 in games in which they didn't score in triple digits. This year: 3-1.

Coach Rick Carlisle emphasized defense from the first preseason practice. It's been a missing link the last few seasons for a veteran Mavericks team that hasn't made a deep playoff run.

They addressed defense in the off-season, adding Marion and his far-reaching wingspan and SMU-ex Quinton Ross, whose strength is being a perimeter pest.

"Just by adding those two players, we're already a better defensive team," Dirk Nowitzki said. "We've made a conscious effort to be better defensively. We're doing well defensively, and we're rotating for each other and scrambling and the defense has been fun to watch."

Though Howard gives the team a boost offensively, he'll also help on the other end of the court. He had three steals in the first half against the Raptors. At the shooting guard spot, he can use his height, wingspan and physical play as an advantage.

"They got into us defensively," Toronto coach Jay Triano said. "We didn't match them with the same intensity and that's why [the score was] lopsided."

The Mavericks will have to rely on their defense to help get through a tough upcoming stretch. Beginning Tuesday at home against Houston, Dallas plays five games in seven days and the last four are on the road.

One area the Mavericks struggled in last year was forcing turnovers, ranking 26th in the NBA at 13 per game. Through six games, Dallas is 12th in the league at 15.5 forced turnovers a game.

The Mavericks have held opponents to an average of 94.3 points and 44.2 percent shooting. Last year, Dallas allowed 99.8 points a game.

The Mavericks rank fourth in the NBA this season in blocks with an average of 6.83, led by center Erick Dampier's 2.5 a game.

"As long as we're going out there and playing team defense," Dampier said, "we're going to give ourselves a chance to win every night."

Guard Jason Terry, known for his offensive punch off the bench, said he's even taking it personally to improve his defense.

"I was challenged in training camp early," Terry said. "Actually at the end-of-the-year meetings last year, they said I could do a much better job defensively. I have taken that to heart and the team feeds off of it. Our defense is very underrated and right now we're trying to make a statement."

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Added: November 10, 2009


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