Opening Tip: Marion's absence makes weaknesses worse

NEW ORLEANS -- Moping about how much they miss Shawn Marion won’t do the Mavericks any good.

It certainly wouldn’t help fill the huge hole in the Mavs’ rotation caused by Marion's absence due to a badly bruised right shoulder and ribs. The Mavs know for certain that Marion won’t be joining them in New Orleans for Friday’s game, so they better figure out how they can do a reasonable job of replacing him.

With Marion, the Mavs are below average defensively and bad rebounding. Without him ... well, the initial results were really ugly.

“If he’s not here, we’ve got to have other guys step up,” said coach Rick Carlisle, who isn’t certain when Marion might be ready to play again. “At this point, we’re getting into mid-January. There’s going to be many games missed all around the league. We’ve got to have other guys ready to step forward.”

That definitely did not happen in Wednesday’s lopsided loss to the San Antonio Spurs.

Wayne Ellington was a nonfactor in his first start for the Mavs. He scored five points in 11 minutes, but his buckets came in garbage time. He had no rebounds, assists, blocks or steals.

In fairness to Ellington, he hadn’t practice much at small forward. And his offensive game, which essentially consists of shooting open jumpers and moving the ball, could use some WD-40 after riding pine for most of the season.

“It’s tough,” Ellington said. “It’s very tough, especially for a guy that shoots the basketball. It’s tough to get in a rhythm. You’re not really getting much game action or playing much, but that’s something I’ve got to get better at myself.”

Jae Crowder, who played 27 minutes, wasn’t much more impactful. He had five points and only one rebound in 27 minutes, almost 10 more than his norm.

It’d be silly to blame Marion’s absence for the blowout loss, considering the Spurs’ average margin of victory during their seven-game winning streak in the series is 17 points. However, there’s no doubt that Dallas desperately missed a guy who is their leading rebounder, best defender, averages 11.3 points per game and plays significant minutes at both forward positions.

The Spurs exploited the weaknesses created by Marion’s absence. Tony Parker, the All-Star point guard the Mavs typically ask Marion to defend, torched Dallas for 25 points despite playing only three quarters. Dallas got absolutely dominated on the glass, being outrebounded by a 55-32 margin.

It won’t necessarily get a whole lot easier during this weekend’s home-and-home back-to-back against the New Orleans Pelicans. Remember that the Pelicans had a ridiculous 58-38 rebounding edge in the Mavs’ previous trip to the Big Easy this season, and that was with Marion in the lineup and New Orleans star power forward Anthony Davis out. Pelicans point guard Jrue Holiday lit it up for 26 points and nine assists in that game, which the Mavs somehow still won. (UPDATE: The Pelicans announced Friday morning that Holiday is out indefinitely with a stress fracture.)

Marion’s absence makes the Mavs’ biggest weaknesses worse. The Mavs have to figure out how to mask those flaws and win anyway.