by mavsluvr at Yesterday, 02:35 AM
MAVERICKS LET ONE SLIP AWAY
LATE-GAME STRUGGLES SURFACE
Goldang it. What a frustrating loss.
Your Dallas Mavericks mailed it in for the first 24 minutes, came back to capture the lead, but couldn’t hold on. Rats!
All the COVID guys were still out, although DFS, Powell, and Richardson were on the bench in street clothes. Hopefully, they will be back soon. Very soon. All the best to Maxi. Rick went with a starting lineup of Luka, Brunson, THJ, KP, and WCS.
Luka lit up the first quarter with 14 points, 5 rebounds, and 7 assists, but the rest of the team looked like doggy doo. After one, they trailed 31-38, going 1-6 from deep, The Nuggets, otoh, hit 59% of their threes and 90% of their free throws.
The second period went from bad to worse. Jalen Brunson gave the team a little lift with 9 points, but the Mavs found themselves on the wrong end of a 58-70 scoreline at the half. Just could not get stops to save their lives.
In the third quarter, the Dallas men unexpectedly came out with energy, and decided to play some defense. They had chiseled the deficit to 7 at 4:51, when THJ took one for the team, absorbing “contact with the groin” from Jamal Murray. Murray, who had been hammering the Mavs, was ejected. What a gift! Tim took the occasion to finish a run of 11 straight points, to end the quarter with 16. They romped their way to a 36-22 frame, and led 94-92 after three.
Alas, the Mavs’ familiar fourth-quarter woes appeared, and they just couldn’t score, putting only 19 points up in the frame. However, they did manage to make a little comeback in the middle of the period, and trailed by only 2 at the 5:00 mark, with a James Johnson reverse layup tying the game a couple seconds later, and a Luka pull-up giving Dallas a 2-point lead at 3:53.
Then, the Mavs’ end-game klutziness was in full bloom. The next offensive possessions were as follows: Johnson missed three; Luka lost ball turnover; THJ missed three, Johnson offensive rebound, KP offensive foul turnover; KP one of two free throws; KP bad pass turnover; KP missed three, THJ offensive rebound, THJ one of two free throws. By then, the Mavs had to play the intentional foul game, and the Nuggets made their free throws. Dallas scored two points in that stretch, consisting of two of four free-throw attempts. Gag.
The Mavs had another mediocre three-point night, hitting only 11 of their 32 attempts. In point differentials, they were +10 on points from twos, -12 on points from threes, and -2 in made free throws. They had a dismal night on the glass, giving up 14 offensive boards and being out-rebounded 49-34. The leading scorers were Luka with 35 points, THJ 19, KP and Johnson 16 each, and Brunson 12. The players on the floor in the clutch were Luka, Burke, Hardaway, Johnson, and WCS/KP.
DONCIC. The Mavs squandered a spectacular triple-double from Luka, who had 35/11/16, to go with 4 steals. He had three triples, and was an awesome 10-10 from the line. He was not awarded a free throw attempt in the second half, which I found perplexing. Asked to address the problems in the clutch after the game, he simply said that no team is going to close every game well. He indicated that the team had met after the game, and several people, including Rick, had spoken, but what is said in the locker room stays in the locker room. Rick himself did not want to dwell on Luka’s performance, saying that individual stat lines don’t mean anything if the team spirit isn’t right.
HARDAWAY. Timmy had 19 points and 7 rebounds. Although he did not shoot especially well overall (7-18), he saved the team’s bacon in the third period. He did not want to discuss the flagrant foul against him, and denied that the foul served as any particular motivation.
PORZINGIS. It was a very poor night from KP, by his standards. He did have 16 points, but was 6-18, and 1-8 from three. He had only 6 rebounds in 33 minutes, turned the ball over three times, including twice down the stretch, and was in foul trouble in the fourth quarter. He was no match for Jovic.
JOHNSON. Johnson had a decent game off the bench, contributing 16 points on 7-8 shooting. Rick threw some praise his way after the game, describing him as “one of our fighters,” having a presence, being physical and unselfish, and always battling. Rick acknowledged that James had made some mistakes, but said he made a “very good effort,” and “his heart was in the right place.”
BRUNSON. Jalen had 12 points, and was perfect from the floor and the line, but had some trouble holding his own defensively and did not appear in crunch time.
WCS played 27 minutes, and had 2 points and 3 boards. He actually had about as decent a defensive night as one could expect against Jovic, but missed all three of his shot attempts and both of his free throws. I keep watching Willie miss shots at point-blank range, and I don’t think it’s solely a strength issue. I think he is just doing something fundamentally wrong. Luka serves him up layups and dunks on a platter, and he just has to make those. That said, I think he had a respectable defensive performance, considering.
HONORABLE MENTIONS. BURKE had a decent night, with 9 points on 4-6 shooting, and was on the floor at the end of the game. IWUNDU had three boards in 16 minutes, and BOBI made a three-minute cameo. I expected to see more of Boban in this game, but I guess it just wasn’t working out, not that anything else was when he played.
DENVER. The Nuggets are a darn good team, and really outplayed the Mavs. If anything was surprising, it was honestly that the game was so close. Michael Porter, Jr. had 30 points off the bench, Jokic was somewhat contained with 20 points and 10 boards, and three other Nuggets scored in double figures. It kills me that Dallas did not take advantage of this opportunity to steal one.
Rick said that the third quarter was one of the team’s best quarters of the year. However, he described the first half as “very poor,” commenting that the ball didn’t move, the players were distracted, they didn’t help each other defensively, and were “very disappointing.” He observed that the Mavs just didn’t play well enough in the fourth quarter to win, making mistakes and not able to score. However, he thought that the team’s “spirit” was much better in the second half, and at least they were “playing the right way.”
Folks, I don’t want to be a downer, but I have serious concerns at this point. I think the question now is not whether this team can make a deep playoff run, but whether they can make the playoffs at all. It’s not just in reaction to this game. It’s been coming. They are 8-9, and in 10th place in the West a quarter of the way through the season. They just don't look good. The COVID guys will trickle back soon, hopefully, but things are not going to instantly turn around the minute they get on the court. It will be a process getting the chemistry back, and I could easily see that taking at least a couple of weeks. And with the games coming so thick and fast, they’re going to mostly have to work the kinks out during matches. Yikes!
Well, hopefully, I am just experiencing an irrational burst of pessimism, and Luka and the boys will make me look silly very soon. I would love that. Anyone is welcome to persuade me I am overreacting.
Next up are two games against Utah, followed by a two-game series against the Suns. Not getting any easier. Fasten your seat belts, Mavs fans!
Hoping for better times, I will catch up with you MFFLs again on Wednesday. Until then.