Antoine Wright was looking pretty good through his time in the first quarter, which ended with him diving all over the place to secure a loose ball. But he was strong in a few facets: 9 points, two rebounds, three assists and two offensive fouls drawn.
Devean George will be in the starting lineup tonight in place of the injured Josh Howard, and he has some shoes to fill. Howard's been great at jump-starting the Mavericks early, but coach Rick Carlisle said it's not up to one guy to replace Howard. "We need multiple guys to pick up the slack," Carlisle said in his pregame talk. "Josh's one of the best I've ever seen to start games."
Still, George was ready for the challenge. "Hopefully I'll provide an early spark in the defensive gam, knock a few shots down and make it tough on their scorers."
Just watching the Mavericks' loss to the Hornets from home, and I keep thinking about last night's game against the Spurs. The Mavericks had so much working well in that game, and obviously Josh Howard's ankle cooperated with him a little more (no question his absence in the second half tonight changes everything).
Usually, you chalk up a victory over the Spurs as something big. But considering tonight's defeat, does it erase much of the good of Wednesday night?
Erick Dampier hadn't been playing much lately, be it because the Mavericks were playing smaller lineups or James Singleton was emerging or both. But the Mavs needed him against San Antonio on Wednesday and he didn't disappoint. Here are his numbers in a nutshell: 31:29 minutes, most he's played since Feb. 18 against New Jersey 4 blocked shots, and three of those came in the fourth quarter 19 points for Tim Duncan... he had a little something to do with that, didn't he?
Jason Terry was very high on Dampier's work: "Erick Dampier is what makes this team go. He's the one we look for to seal our paint and he's always guarding the toughest player every night. When he plays and coach leaves him out there a good amount of time, he's productive. He was tremendous. It shows what we're capable of doing as a team when we allow him to play. He was doing stuff tonight we haven't seen in a long time: chasing Tony Parker off a three, scrambling around, playing Tim
tough. If we have a presence like Damp to defend Chris Paul, we'll be tough to beat."
OK, the Mavericks are a great team at the American Airlines Center once again. That's all well and good. But now the Mavericks have to back these big home victories up with big road ones. And lately, that's been an issue. Four consecutive road losses entering tonight's game in New Orleans.
Remember back when they beat New Jersey here on Feb. 18? Two nights later they went cold in the third quarter and lost in Houston. A week later, they lost to a Manu Ginobili- and Tim Duncan-less Spurs team in San Antonio. Monday it was a loss in Oklahoma City against a Thunder missing two top scorers.
So what's going wrong on the road? The Mavs talk about how they're energized in this building (thank you, fans), but they need to have that same moxie away from here. They need to keep their composure, which has also been a problem.
The Mavs are doing some good damage to the Spurs right now by driving to the basket. Even if it gets them to the line, they're converting. It's changed the complexion of this game in the third quarter.
Erick Dampier is the latest to get to the line at the 2:30 mark.
Mark Cuban called Josh Howard a "warrior" before this game, and right now he's certainly playing the part. Howard has the Mavericks' last 12 points, and has given them a 23-21 advantage at the 2:29 mark here in the first quarter.