Luka Doncic’s injury, and a smaller Rocket’s squad made Rick Carlisle get creative with his lineup.
Ryan Broekhoff and a few other Mavericks often play a trivia game before team meetings. Broekhoff was so preoccupied with the game, he didn’t bother to glance at the whiteboard when he entered the room.
Why would he look, anyway? The whiteboard is where the starters and a few other game-opening instructions are written.
Entering Saturday’s game against the Rockets, Broekhoff had appeared in 53 career NBA games and started none of them.
“After I finished (the trivia game) Maxi (Kleber) was like, ‘You’re starting tonight,’ ” Broekhoff said. “I said, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah. Funny, funny, funny.’
“And he was like, ‘No, look.’ ”
Sure enough, Broekhoff started and played 20 minutes in the Mavericks 128-121 loss Friday night at Toyota Center. He finished with nine points, five rebounds and one block — on James Harden, by the way.
Why did coach Rick Carlisle decide to start Broekhoff, along with J.J. Barea, in Luka Doncic’s injury absence?
“Broekhoff needed to be on the floor,” he said. “He’s a deceptively physical defender and he makes threes.
“Look, this is going to be a game-to-game situation. We’ll see where we are tomorrow afternoon, when we take a closer look at Atlanta (Saturday’s home opponent).”
Australian Broekhoff, 29, is in his second NBA season, both with the Mavericks. He only had played in 11 games this season, and Friday’s game was just his second game back from a one-month absence due to a fracture of the proximal head of his left fibula.
Broekhoff suffered the injury on the last possession of Dallas’ Dec. 29 loss at the Lakers.
“A little bit surprised, having been out for a little while,” he said of getting Friday’s start. “But I saw it as an opportunity to challenge myself and see where I’m at after my recovery.”
The verdict? Broekoff said he felt winded at times. He says it will take time for him to regain his rhythm and re-acclimate to the speed of NBA games.
Broekhoff said he also made a couple of mistakes on defensive rotations.
“That’ll come, hopefully, with some more playing time,” he said.
Along with playing time Friday, Broekhoff experienced something he hasn’t felt in a while.
“Nervous,” he said. “I was actually nervous. I haven’t been nervous for a game in a long time, maybe since my first NBA game last year in Phoenix. There was a little nervous energy throughout the day.
“These things, you never know when they might come, so I just tried to put my best foot forward to help the team.”