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Much work to do after Mavs' defensive dud

DALLAS -- Preseason or not, there’s nothing easier to predict than Rick Carlisle being perturbed after a poor defensive performance.

Suffice to say, Carlisle was cranky after the Mavericks’ 100-94 loss to the Suns on Wednesday night.

The box score doesn’t really tell the story about how bad the remodeled, Dirkless Mavs were on defense. The Suns’ starters opened both halves with 8-of-10 shooting spurts. Phoenix scored 32 points on 12-of-16 shooting in the third quarter, the frame that the Suns gave their starters the most run.

What in particular do the Mavs need to clean up defensively?

“Lots of things,” Carlisle said.

It’s not exactly surprising to see the Mavs have a defensive stinker. Dallas’ five starters against the Suns played for five different teams last season, with defensive stopper Shawn Marion the only Mavs holdover of the bunch.

“Everybody still doesn’t have a feel for each other,” Marion said. “It’s a learning curve for everybody. We’ve got to keep communicating and help each other.

“At the same time, this is preseason. I can’t even sit here and get excited right now. I mean, real talk.”

Real talk: The Mavs only have four more games that don’t matter. They’ve got less than two weeks before they’ll be trying to keep Kobe Bryant and his All-Star cast from lighting it up in L.A.

Big man Chris Kaman cited two major problems with Dallas’ defense against the Suns.

The first was a technical issue: The pick-and-roll coverages were “pretty suspect.” As Elton Brand pointed out, that’s caused in part by guys not being in sync, used to playing the coverages used by their former teams instead of the Mavs’ schemes.

The second is the most basic concept in basketball.

“At times, I think our effort isn’t what it needs to be,” said Kaman, who led the Mavs with 16 points but had only two rebounds and no blocks in 23 minutes. “That’s myself included.”

At least the Mavs are on the same page about needing to get on the same page. That phrase was uttered throughout the locker room when questions were posed about the defense.

“I just really think we need longer sessions on the defensive end,” O.J. Mayo said. “At the end of the day, I’m telling you that’s what it is. It’s all about five guys pulling on a string, knowing what we’re going to do and sticking to that, living and dying with those coverages. We’ve just got to get after it.”

Another easy prediction: Thursday’s practice will be defense-intensive.