Buzz: Mavs target better ball protection

PHOENIX -- Among all the keys written on the board in the Mavericks' locker room, there are three words in all caps and underlined in red: "VALUE THE BALL."

Coach Rick Carlisle can only hope his team doesn't duplicate its turnover issue against the Phoenix Suns. The Mavericks turned the ball over 22 times in a 112-90 blowout loss Wednesday against the Los Angeles Clippers, who scored 26 points off Dallas' generosity.

"When you turn the ball over, things get ugly quickly and it makes other things look a lot worse," Carlisle said. "Taking care of the ball is a premium in this league every single night. Tonight is going to be the same kind of situation."

The Clippers had 18 steals. It's clear the Mavericks must improve on protecting the ball in their second game of a back-to-back. Carlisle was adamant in mentioning the Mavericks' failure to value the ball when asked if there were other issues during their loss.

"It's a product of good habits and practicing," forward Elton Brand said. "... We can't turn the ball over like that. We've just got to keep working at that."

Other notes:

* Derek Fisher had a better night on the floor in his second game with the Mavericks, scoring 15 points on 5-of-11 shooting in his first start.

"His shot-making was there last night, which is surprising for such a short period of time," Carlisle said. "What it shows is that he really put himself in pretty darn good shape."

Carlisle said Fisher can help the Mavericks win games going forward given his experience. Brand said Fisher has jelled well with the team in such a short period of time.

"Just from a leadership role, he talks to the young guys a lot," Brand said. "He's a heavy veteran with five rings. He's seen it and done it all so he's like another coach out there on the court."

* Carlisle is big on toughness but doesn't have an "enforcer" on the roster. It's something the team has lacked since the departure of Tyson Chandler. The coach said he'd like more toughness, but the Mavericks shouldn't feel limited based off the lack of physicality on the team.

"When things go the way they did last night, there's going to be stretches where you don't look very competitive," Carlisle said. "That's not good. That's something that we talked about today in our meeting is being competitive and physical. Even though we're not a particularly physical team, it does not prevent us from sticking our nose in there and getting front of people, helping each other and doing the right things out on the floor."