The Dallas Mavericks have put together a 4-game losing streak in the last days and there's a lot you surely don't like right now. The good news is: They have three full days of working on these issues. The bad news: After that, they play one of their more brutal stretches opponents-wise in the whole season. Here's my compilation of the ongoing issues:
The Mavs don't seem to be in-sync and it shows in their overall effort on the court. The most annoying play against the Cavaliers last night came at the 7:07 mark in the fourth quarter. Dirk was picked off by Ramon Sessions, who tried to lay the ball in on a fastbreak possession, but Rodrigue Beaubois was all over him on that play and forced the miss. But instead of any other Dallas players trailing the play, two Cavs were there to clean up the miss and Alonzo Gee then converted the offensive board. We can agree that Sessions should have passed the ball instead of driving (he could have even got up for a Three, because no way Roddy would have gotten a hand on the rebound against three Cavs), but this is the perfect way to destroy your team spirit. Roddy made a good play and wasn't rewarded, because no one else cared. Haywood gets frustrated every once in a while when he blocks shot after shot, but the defense behind him isn't able to secure the defensive rebound. It's a team game, so you should actually play like a team.
At the early stages of the season, the Mavs were the second best defensive rebounding team in terms of percentages and they dropped all their way back to their current rank, 12th. Offensive rebounding was never one of the Mavericks strength, but it looked like the departure of Tyson Chandler didn't leave that much of a hole in that area. Wrong? During the first 14 games, the Mavs only had two games in the 60s in terms of DRB%, but failed to rebound 70% of the opponents misses in 6 of the last 11. This clearly leads back to a lack of effort. Yesterday Anderson Varejao grabbed twice as much rebounds as the best player on the Mavs roster in that regard. Varejao is one of the best rebounders in the league, but this is simply off the chart.
This relates to effort as much as rebounding does. This is not well-described by the numbers. The Mavs are still 9th in the league of taking care of the ball, but in the last three games especially the veterans on the team have shown signs of careless basketball. The remaining core from last years championship team (Shawn Marion, Jason Terry, Brendan Haywood and Dirk Nowitzki) combined for 28 turnovers over the last three games. So these players that normally should lead by example and carry the team, are responsible for more than 60% of the teams turnovers lately. Last night against the Cavs on two different occasions Dirk and Marion tried to pass it to Terry, but a) the passes were lazy at best and easily picked off and b) Terry wasn't even looking or expecting the ball. I don't know. Might be bad communication or as I said a sync issue, but it was really ugly.
More issues after the jump... I'm sorry that we're not done yet.
- Overall Defense
The team started the campaign red hot on the defensive end, making fun of all those who said the departure of Tyson Chandler and DeShawn Stevenson would turn the Mavs into a mediocre, at best, defensive team again. Don't get me wrong, Mavs still rank 7th in DefEff this season (were 10th last season), but the numbers are declining. After a horrible start we had a favorable trend that led to the blowout of the Kings, but after that the declining is clearly visible. The Mavs held opponents to 95.95 PP100 during the first 14 games, only to 103.62 after that. The offense has also picked up, but not in a way to come up for this. The Efficiency Differential has dropped by a solid 3.42 PP100 comparing these two spans. Opponents have been better lately, but that doesn't entirely explain the drop-off.
- Three-Point Defense
More specifically, the perimeter defense in terms of threes hasn't been good. Opponents convert on a 35.93% clip, which is good for 20th in the league. More importantly though: According to hoopsstats.com The Mavs give up 38.50% on Threes from the guard positions (ranks 27th in league). That's huge and fits the observations. Neither of the guards seems to be particularly good in closing out on shooters. Kidd & Terry looked bad to start the season in that regard, but Roddy and West (and Carter), in other areas very good and reliable defenders, have problems in doing so. One thing I noticed is that the zone defense isn't tuned yet with so man new faces on the roster. And because the zone wants to force opponents into threes, they take them. But because the Mavs can't get to them in time, they also hit them.
- 3rd Quarter Collapses
As I have stated on twitter after the game yesterday, opponents adjust much better after halftime than the Mavs do, which is kind of puzzling because I would give Coach Carlisle the edge on any given night in terms of coaching. They post a putrid -44.04 Efficiency Differential during the 3-game losing streak in the third and it's not about getting the ball to Dirk. He went 0-for-5 last night (-17.1 PER in 3rd) so we have more of a team issue here. Dirk obviously is treated a lot more aggressively in third quarters and so other have to make plays but cannot. The Mavs had a real chance to put the Cavs away yesterday because they weren't hitting anything in the early going, but Dirk & Co. decided to let them hang around and they turned things around in the 3rd period.
- Jason Kidd
This isn't an issue for now, but I think the fact that the Mavs are missing Jason Kidd is overstated. Surely Kidd can distribute the ball like no one else to the places where it needs to go, but his overall play was not impressive to say the least. His turnovers are up, his defense is down and he couldn't buy a shot before sitting down with the injuries. So his return will not be the immediate cure for all problems. One thing I'm looking forward to with his return though is (hopefully) having all players available and settling the rotation. Last night Delonte West got the start over Roddy (didn't work) and Ian played a total of zero minutes. I'm okay with Brandan Wright getting his shot in the rotation, because he played really good down the stretch, but with each lineup change players have to redevelop chemistry within the current set and consistency would be good in that area for the pieces to gel. It's clear that Carlisle still envisions a starting unit of Kidd, West, Marion, Dirk and Haywood, so having these players available will help him build his rotation around that and stick to it for a while.