After winning the NBA championship last season against the Heat, the Mavericks will begin their title defense Saturday on the road against the Thunder. The Mavericks fell to the seventh seed after losing four out of their last six games to close out the season. Mike Heika of The Dallas Morning News has the latest out of Dallas with a series of updates from Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle.
- Defense will be a key for the Mavs if they want to contain the Thunder's trio of stars that guided the team to the third-highest scoring average in the league at 103.1 points per game. Carlisle wants his squad to focus on defending the Thunder as a collective unit rather than attempting to guard them individually. Fouling won't help the Mavs as the Thunder rank first in the league for both free throws made per game (21.3) and free throw shooting percentage (.806).
- Limiting the minutes of star players such as Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd will not be a consideration for the Mavs as the team looks to rely on their veterans for heavy usage throughout the playoffs. Carlisle rested Kidd the last two games of the season and decreased the 38-year-old point guard's minutes per game this season to 28.7. Nowitzki finished the season averaging 33.5 minutes per game as his time on the court decreased less than one minute from a year ago.
- The Thunder's Serge Ibaka will be a test for the Mavs' big men after a season in which the 22-year-old rising star blocked 21 shots against the Mavs in four meetings. With defensive stalwart Tyson Chandler now on the Knicks, the Mavs will rely on Brendan Haywood, Ian Mahinmi and Brandan Wright to occupy space in the paint for the team. "Our center position is going to be very important in the series, because the way they defend, our centers have got to give us activity around the basket,'' Carlisle said.