DALLAS -- It's become crystal clear to forward Dirk Nowitzki that in order for the Dallas Mavericks to return to the playoffs after missing out on the postseason last year, they've got to find a way to keep center Samuel Dalembert out of foul trouble.
Dalembert was doing just fine in the first half of Friday's game against the Indiana Pacers when he committed just one foul while the Mavs were nursing a 41-39 lead. But in the third quarter Dalembert picked up a foul at the 10:49 mark, the 8:09 mark and the 7:55 mark and had to go to the bench with four fouls and the Mavs clinging to a 51-45.
From there, Dalembert's replacement -- 6-6 DeJuan Blair -- had all sorts of problems trying to protect the rim and guard 7-2 Roy Hibbert. In essence, the roof caved in and the Mavs got hammered by the Pacers, 98-77.
But everything hinged on the time Dalembert went to the bench with those four fouls.
"If he just finds a way to cut one or two fouls,'' Nowitzki said of Dalembert. "We feel like he gets one or two at least on moving screens.
"As a defender you’re going to pick a foul up here and there with being active. With the shot-blocking you’ll pick up some fouls, but we’ve got to make sure that he doesn’t get those one or two moving screens a game -- those really hurt.''
What also hurt is that Dalembert has been a model player since he was criticized for being out of shape and playing poorly during the preseason opener against the New Orleans Pelicans.
"Sammy has been great, actually, since he got called out in the first game,'' Nowitzki said. "He's been doing exactly what we’ve asked him to do.
"He's been actively defensively, he's blocking shots, he looks like he's having fun out there, he’s moving well, he's rebounding.''
Dalembert just needs to find a way to decrease his fouls.
-- Dwain Price
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