Mavs try to avoid letting Rockets look like Globetrotters

DALLAS – For better or worse, the Mavericks get a rematch with the Houston Rockets.

OK, it can’t get much worse than Sunday’s defensive debacle, when the Rockets torched the Mavs for 44 points in the third quarter en route to a 136-103 blowout.

“It was like Meadowlark Lemon was out there throwing behind-the-back passes and the music was playing,” coach Rick Carlisle said, referring to the famous former Harlem Globetrotter. “That’s how it looked. We got to do better than that.”

The Mavs are actually excited about the scheduling quirk of having a home-and-home series with the Rockets, who will be American Airlines Center visitors Wednesday night. It’s an opportunity for Dallas to at least partially restore its defensive dignity.

The Mavs were embarrassed by their sloppy, uninspired, pathetic performance Sunday night, as they should be. For the last two days, they have had to live with the shame of allowing 57.5 percent shooting from the floor, 41.2 percent 3-point shooting and 40 free throw attempts.

“I don’t think you wash the taste out of your mouth from a loss like that,” said Elton Brand, who strangely didn’t play a second during that miserable third quarter. “You let it linger and use that as kind of motivation.”

What went wrong for the Dallas defense in Houston? In a word, everything.

More specifically, the Mavs failed miserably to keep Jeremy Lin (21 points, nine assists in 25 minutes) and James Harden (21 points, seven assists in 30 minutes) out of the paint and Chandler Parsons (32 points, 12-13 FG) from getting a lot of great 3-point looks and easy dunks and layups.

“It’s an individual challenge,” Shawn Marion said. “I think some people are able to do it more than others, of course, but at the same time, you still have to take the challenge of just doing it. …

“It ain’t hard if you’re putting the effort out there. When you put the effort out there, good things happen for you. You’ve got to go out there and compete. We didn’t and it showed.”

Dirk Nowitzki thinks the Mavs’ season-long defensive woes, which hit a low Sunday, are a little more complicated.

“We’re missing coverages,” Nowitzki said. “Sometimes it takes us too long to think ahead and get in our coverages and call out our coverages. We have to protect the paint better. We haven’t really done a great job all season. Usually when our man-to-man was struggling, we could always rely on our zone, but that isn’t even good this year. We’ve got to make our man-to-man work and call out the coverages early and execute the coverages.”

Generally speaking, the Mavs must improve every facet of their defensive game to avoid looking like the Washington Generals again.