SALT LAKE CITY -- The Dallas Mavericks prided themselves on their depth last season and it's been their calling card this season. Their superior depth was supposed to be they key to making an older, not-so-athletic club function at an elite level.
But that depth is coming into serious question in the final weeks of the regular season.
In Monday's triple-overtime loss at Utah, coach Rick Carlisle mostly went with a three-man bench. In a game that spanned 63 minutes, Yi Jianlian got five minutes, Brandan Wright played six and Brian Cardinal subbed in for all of 19 seconds. Meanwhile, Ian Mahinmi, Vince Carter and Jason Terry all played between 36 and 54 minutes.
In Sunday's overtime loss at the Los Angeles Lakers, Carlisle shortened the bench to basically Carter and Terry with Mahinmi and Wright combining for less than 16 minutes.
"We know who the warriors are and the roles are defined," said Nowitzki, who logged a massive 96 minutes in the last two games. "Here and there it's going to be tossed up. Sometimes Haywood is going to play more at the 5, sometimes it's going to be B-Wright, tonight it was Mahinmi down the stretch getting all the minutes. Some things fluctuate from night in, night out, but everybody is going to compete. Whoever gets the minutes is going to play hard and that's the only way to go."
A healthy Rodrigue Beaubois would have helped alleviate some minutes in the backcourt, but even Beaubois' playing time can fluctuate greatly and his rotation role in the playoffs certainly isn't settled.
The bigger issue is the front court. As poorly as Lamar Odom performed, he did average 20 minutes a night with a large chunk at power forward. Shawn Marion will be called on take some of the those minutes because there are few options beyond him. Jianlian and Cardinal aren't consistent solutions in the postseason. Jianlian got into Monday's game in the first quarter because Nowitzki ran into early foul trouble.
Wright is not considered an optimum choice at power forward and Carlisle has made that rather clear.
Here's three more areas of consideration:
1. T'd off: Delonte West earned his technical foul in odd fashion by sticking his index finger in the ear of Jazz guard Gordon Hayward in the second quarter. But the Mavs also had a couple of their key veterans get technical fouls at crucial junctures of the game. Jason Terry picked one up in the fourth quarter when he argued a no-call on a drive to the basket on which he thought he was fouled and Dirk Nowitzki was hit with one at the 1:05 mark of the first overtime.
2. Rare triple OT: Monday's 3-hour, 17-minute game marked the first time the Mavs played a triple-overtime game in more than 20 years. On Dec. 29, 1989, the Portland Trail Blazers won in three overtimes in Dallas, 144-140.
3. Streak busters: Chalk up yet another streak that has come to and this season. Dallas had won the last seven meetings against the Jazz.