Mavs hope to avoid slow start against Wizards

The Dallas Mavericks are keenly aware why they’re toting a three-losing streak heading into Monday night’s home game against the Washington Wizards.

“We’re coming out too sluggish, too lackadaisical and too nonchalant,” Dallas point guard Dennis Smith Jr. said. “Whatever word you want to use, we don’t have the right disposition to start games out.”

“Disposition” is a favorite expression of Rick Carlisle, so, if anything, the rookie is listening to his coach. Now, if only the team could do something about it.

In losses to the Los Angeles Lakers, Denver and, most recently, at Portland on Saturday, the Mavs have found themselves down big early, only to fight back in the second half. The final scores have been relatively close, which only leads to extra frustration.

Dallas (15-31) was down as many of 18 in the first half to the Trail Blazers before getting within five in the second. The Mavericks just didn’t have enough down the stretch.

“The first half, I thought it was bad,” Carlisle said. “I thought the second half was very good. But you’ve got to play both halves, so we’ve got to get a better start.”

The visit to Dallas marks the midpoint of a five-game road trip for the Wizards. Washington (26-20) snapped a two-game skid with Friday’s 122-112 win at Detroit, and currently sits fifth in the Eastern Conference.

The Wizards, down 15 at one point in the first half to the Pistons, blew the game open in the third quarter. Washington scored 45 in the third, with 26 points coming from Bradley Beal and John Wall, to take a 17-point lead into the fourth quarter.

The Wizards shot better than 60 percent from both the field and 3-point range to score a season-best 76 points in the second half.

“We started off slow offensively, but we didn’t hang our heads,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “We came in and kept fighting. Our second unit came in and gave us juice.”

Beal finished with 26 points, and Wall scored 16 to go with 11 assists. Wall had 10 points in the third quarter.

Kelly Oubre Jr. came off the bench to score a career-high 26 points, knocking down five 3-pointers. The second-year small forward’s previous best was 22 points earlier this season.

“Kelly competes,” Brooks said. “I’m always challenging him. There are times he makes mistakes, but I’m not just going to let him make a mistake and chalk it up to he’s young. I keep challenging him and trying to get him better.”

Considering the history between the clubs, the Mavs have reason for optimism. Dallas posted a 113-99 road win at Washington on Nov. 7, and has won 16 of the last 18 in the series.

The Mavericks swept the season series in 2016-17, the sixth sweep in seven years. Washington’s last two wins in the series have both come on the road.

Dallas reserve guard Devin Harris has missed the last two games with a head injury.