Nuggets-Mavericks Preview


The start of the Dallas Mavericks' title defense couldn't have gone much worse.

The Mavericks won't have to wait long to try to bounce back Monday night at home in the Denver Nuggets' season opener.

After Dallas raised a banner to celebrate its first NBA title Sunday, the Mavericks fell behind by as many as 35 points in a 105-94 loss to Miami in a finals rematch that was not as close as the final score.

Coach Rick Carlisle preached patience for his new-look squad, which lost center Tyson Chandler and backup point guard J.J. Barea and added forward Lamar Odom and guards Vince Carter and Delonte West.

"We're going to have to forge an identity with this team; it's a different team," Carlisle said. "That's work, and it's going to take honesty, and it's not going to be easy."

Odom had a terrible Mavericks debut with four points, four rebounds and four fouls in 13 minutes. The reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year was 1 of 6 from the field before getting ejected in the third quarter.

"We've got to get better and it will take a little time to get better," Odom said.

Jason Terry led Dallas with 23 points while star Dirk Nowitzki added 21 on 6-of-15 shooting.

The Mavericks lost both home games against the Nuggets last season, going 1-3 in the season series. Three of those meetings, however, came when Carmelo Anthony was with Denver.

This will be Denver's first full season without Anthony since 2002-03. The Nuggets went 18-7 after trading Anthony to New York to finish with 50 wins last season, losing to Oklahoma City in five games in the first round of the playoffs.

In a league in which teams like the Knicks and Heat are trying for success by stockpiling superstars, Denver is without one. Danilo Gallinari averaged 14.7 points in 14 games for Denver last season after being acquired from New York.

"What we're trying to do is start where we left off last year and I think we feel now we can get there," coach George Karl said.

One reason for optimism is that Denver re-signed its top two free agents, Nene and Arron Afflalo. Nene averaged 14.5 points last season and Afflalo a career-best 12.6.

"These guys are very valuable to the organization, and they are very skilled players," general manager Masai Ujiri told the Nuggets' official website. "Rather than go out and find players like them, I think you keep the ones you have."

Point guard Andre Miller came over from Portland for a second stint with the team while the Nuggets also acquired perimeter players Corey Brewer and Rudy Fernandez from Dallas on Dec. 13.

"Maybe there will be some pieces that will be different and we might not be as good in certain areas, but I think we can get to the point where some of the success we had last season can be repeated," Karl said.

Afflalo missed the first two games of the playoff series against the Thunder with a hamstring injury and struggled to average 11.3 points on 35.3 percent shooting in the next three contests. He's healthy now, and hopes to resemble the player who averaged 14.3 points on 53.3 percent shooting in three games against Dallas last season.

"I'm excited to be more of a leader of the team," said Afflalo, whose jumper beat the buzzer and the Mavericks 121-120 on Feb. 10.