With Marion out, Dahntay Jones should start

DALLAS – After three losses in a row, coach Rick Carlisle is searching for solutions, starting with his starting lineup.

Carlisle won’t announce any changes to his starting lineup until the NBA-mandated 16 minutes before tip-off, but it’d be surprising if there isn’t some kind of shakeup in the starting five for Wednesday night’s game against the Wizards.

“At this point, I’ll look at anything as long as there’s five guys out there busting their ass,” Carlisle said. “And if they aren’t, they won’t be out there. Right now, that’s how we’re going to do business with this thing.”

It’d be a lot easier for Carlisle if he could just plug Shawn Marion back into the lineup, but the Mavs’ do-it-all small forward will miss at least one more game due to the sprained MCL in his left knee.

It still makes sense to make a change at small forward. Why not see what Dahntay Jones can do as a starter?

Rookie second-round pick Jae Crowder has really struggled during the losing streak. He has totals of 14 points and four rebounds in the three games, while the opposing small forwards have averaged 24 points and 10 rebounds. The Mavs have been outscored by 34 points in Crowder’s 59 minutes during the skid, and his playing time has decreased in each game.

It’s not as if Jones’ individual numbers in the three games (17 points, eight rebounds in 55 minutes) are off the charts, but the Mavs have played much better basketball with him on the floor. They’ve outscored their foes by 22 points in Jones’ minutes during the losing streak.

The sample size is way too small to draw any grand conclusions, but Jones has fit well with the other four starters in their limited time together. According to NBA.com’s advanced statistics, the lineup of Jones, Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, Elton Brand and Brandan Wright has outscored opponents by eight points in nine minutes.

Those stats might not have much to do with it, but Carlisle seems to be leaning toward starting Jones, although there might be more than one change in the starting lineup.

Carlisle says the Mavs need to get defense, rebounding and energy into the game early. What does he like about Jones?

“I like his toughness, his defensive energy,” Carlisle said. “He’s giving us some scoring at times. Really, more than anything, he brings attitude and physical toughness to the game. I’ve liked what I’ve seen from him, particularly in the last three games.”

With Marion out, there’s no reason to wait to see Jones against the Wizards. Might as well see if he can give the Mavs a much-needed energy boost at the beginning of the game.