Game 3: Mavs at Rockets

HOUSTON — Traveling to Houston without three of their top playmakers, the Dallas Mavericks will try to collectively come together and pick up the slack Saturday night in their first test on the road this season.

Already playing without sharpshooter Seth Curry (stress reaction, left tibia), veteran combo guard Devin Harris (personal reasons) and big man Josh McRoberts (lower extremity injury), the Mavericks (0-2) then learned just before Friday night’s matchup with the Sacramento Kings that they’d also be without first-round draft pick Dennis Smith Jr. due to left knee effusion. The Mavs then scratched and clawed for 48 minutes before eventually falling to a second straight home loss to start the season following a 93-88 defeat. The Dallas team boarded a flight to Houston immediately after that, turning its attention to Saturday’s Southwest Division showdown against the rival Rockets (2-0). And although Mavs coach Rick Carlisle says the team doesn’t believe Smith’s injury is serious, he adds that there’s no need to push the talented rookie to return to the court too soon.

“He’s got a little swelling, but it’s not believed to be serious,” Carlisle explained while giving an injury update on Smith after Friday’s game. “He will not travel to Houston, and we’ll hope he’s OK for Monday. It doesn’t make any sense to rush through this weekend and try to play him (Saturday). He’s had a little bit of minor swelling throughout training camp, and it’s one of the symptoms of having an ACL (tear) and going through a higher workload. The doctor checked him out, and we think he’s going to be fine.”

Playing without their prized draft pick after he became the youngest player in NBA history to record a double-double with points and assists Wednesday during his debut, the Mavericks admittedly struggled to produce enough offense in the first game of their difficult back-to-back. The Mavs also struggled for the second straight game on the boards, failing to keep the Kings off the glass during Friday’s loss. That said, the Mavericks know they must be better in all facets of the game against the unbeaten Rockets. And with MVP candidate James Harden leading the way for the Rockets, the shorthanded Mavs will try to raise their level of play away from home.

Despite leading scorer Harrison Barnes’ 24 points on 8-of-18 shooting, the Mavericks finished Friday night’s loss outshot by the Kings, 42.5 percent to 41.3 percent. The Mavs also lost a decisive rebounding battle, 57-36, giving the team concerns going into Saturday’s showdown. And after suffering two narrow losses on their home floor, the Mavericks expect another dogfight Saturday on the road.

“I mean, I think this season there’s going to be a lot of games like (Friday),” Barnes admitted. “I mean, it’s going to be close, and it’s going to come down to a couple of stops, or a couple of rebounds here and there. Throughout the course of the game we went big, and we still got out-rebounded. It’s more of an effort thing and a focus, as oppose to lineups, personnel and that type of thing.

“Everyone’s got to pitch in. That’s the biggest thing,” he added. “We all have to pitch in collectively with playmaking and rebounding. Just helping each other out and communicating. … Everyone’s got to pitch in.”

Note: The Mavericks will now travel to Houston for Saturday’s showdown against the Rockets. The game will tip off at 7 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest and 103.3 FM ESPN. The game will also air in Spanish on KFLC AM 1270.

The Mavs return to American Airlines Center on Monday against the defending champion Golden State Warriors. The game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest and 103.3 FM ESPN. The game will also air in Spanish on KFLC AM 1270. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting Mavs.com, or by calling (214) 747-MAVS.

Injury updates:

Dennis Smith Jr. (left knee effusion) — not with the team
Devin Harris (personal reasons) — not with the team
Seth Curry (stress reaction, left tibia) — not with the team
Josh McRoberts (lower extremity injury) — not with the team

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