DALLAS _ These aren't the pushover soft Dallas Mavericks of yesteryear. The team who used to just try to outscore teams, and looked at defense as a foreign intangible part of the game.
Today's crop of Mavs are approaching games in a defensive state of mind. It's that same defensive mentality that helped them win last year's NBA title.
And that same defense was more evident again Monday when the Mavs trounced the Boston Celtics, 89-73. The Celtics shot just 39.2 percent from the field, and the Mavs turned 17 Boston turnovers into 25 points while sweeping the two-game series from the Celtics for the second consecutive season.
"Our identity this year is that we're a defensive team,'' coach Rick Carlisle said. "You look at our stats and you look at our record.
"You look at when we've struggled and when we play well, our defense and rebounding is defining who we are.''
A more glaring testament of the Mavs' sticky defense came from the fact that the only time the Celtics finished a quarter out of the teens is when they tallied 20 points in the fourth period. In the onther three quarters, Boston scored 15, 19 and 19 points.
"It's all about your foundation,'' guard Jason Terry said of the Mavs' defense. "When Rick Carlisle became coach he emphasized defense form Day One.
"He put up the numbers of the past teams that have won championships, and they were all in the top five in the defensive categories. We set that as a goal from Day One and I think we've been able to, for the most part, maintain it.''
The Mavs certainly didn't allow the Celtics to even think they had a chance at winning Monday's game. In the first 20-and-a-half minutes of the game, the Celtics had just 26 points and their offense looked ragged.
Of course, the absence of point guard Rajon Rondo (NBA-imposed two-game suspension) and power forward Kevin Garnett (death in the family) didn't help the Celtics' cause.
"Their team was depleted to a great extent, so that's a mitigating circumstance,'' Carlisle said. "I understand that.
"But the other guys they threw out there were hard-playing guys and they played well. We had to play to win.''
-- Dwain Price
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