Mavs' slow start stuck in Carlisle's craw

DALLAS – The Mavericks probably didn’t need a reminder about the danger of stumbling to a slow start before the Denver Nuggets came to town.

They got one anyway, courtesy of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Timberwolves torched the Mavs for 37 points on 16-of-24 shooting in the first quarter Wednesday night, doing much of the damage in transition. Bad got worse early in the second quarter, with the Mavs staring at a 22-point deficit by the time they were done digging.

“I’m not sure if we were quite ready to play,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “They were kind of into us and we weren’t quite ready. We were caught on our heels.”

It looked a lot like the Mavs' visit to Denver earlier this month, when the Nuggets lit it up for 41 points in the first quarter en route to building a 19-point lead.

The Mavs managed to rally against the Timberwolves to send the game into overtime before suffering a painful loss. The Mavs blew a five-point lead in overtime and Nowitzki missed a potential game-winner at the buzzer, but it was the sorry start that stuck in coach Rick Carlisle’s craw.

“We’re trying to be a team that can win in the playoffs, not just eek in,” Carlisle said. “Playing a first quarter like that on your home court in a game this meaningful is a bad sign for us right now.

“We’ve got to turn it around and we’ve got another team coming in here Friday that’s been murder for us because of the matchups. It’s going to be the same kind of game. We’ve got to get ourselves right by Friday.”

The Nuggets, who are 3-0 against Dallas and 28-37 against the rest of the NBA this season, give the older, slower Mavs fits with their athleticism. Speedy point guard Ty Lawson has been an especially tough matchup, averaging 19.7 points and 9.0 assists against the Mavs.

Lawson sat out the Nuggets’ win Wednesday over the Detroit Pistons because of a sinus infection, but backup Aaron Brooks put up 27 points and 17 assists in his spot start. Regardless of Lawson’s status, the Mavs know they can’t afford another slow start against a fast team.

“We have to be ready to put our track shoes on, because they’re going to run,” Shawn Marion said. “They’re going to push it. We have to be ready.”