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Sacramento Kings 110, Dallas Mavericks 97: Yep.

I can't find photos from tonight, so this one from last night seems appropriate.
I can't find photos from tonight, so this one from last night seems appropriate.

It was the third quarter, about halfway through.

Dirk Nowitzki backed down some Kings defender. Honestly, I forgot who it was. It didn't matter.

He faced a soft double team, nothing extraneous. The kind of double team Dirk has beat over and over against with a simple pass out to the wing or a skip pass to the corner.

Dirk went with the skip pass to a dive-cutting Dominique Jones. Except the pass went about 10 feet over his head and into the first row. That summed up the night for Dallas – even the normal, routine plays that this team has made over the last 10 years seemed extremely difficult to make.

There will be no bullets tonight. Just an observation of what's happened to the Mavericks over the last few weeks. It was all magnified in the Kings loss. Dallas has been able to scrape by with a decent record in the Western Conference because of an elite level defense. That defense was predicated on forcing turnovers and turning those opportunities into easy scores. Those easy scores were crucial since the offense has been, well, shit. Absolute shit.

But now that defense hasn't been there. Tonight, the Kings ran circles around Dallas, and while the Mavs turned 14 turnovers into 17 points, they needed more. Because the half court offense was anemic. Dirk was missing wide open mid range shots, Shawn Marion didn't seem sure when to post up or when to drive and Jason Kidd provides to be a useless piece on the court. It's only amplified when the Mavericks offense struggles as a whole. Dallas is built on Kidd's ability to manage the team in the half court, getting the ball to teammates in the right spot. Other than that, his job is to knock down three-pointers. Right now, neither is happening.

Then comes my final observation: despite all the roster changes and overhauls to the bench, the remaining players look like they've never played with each other, ever. Tyson Chandler, DeShawn Stevenson and J.J. Barea are gone but Dirk, Jason Terry, Kidd, Marion remain. That's 4/5ths of the closing time lineup. Yet, those four players look like they've never played a minute together. Terry is reading screen and rolls wrong, Dirk is throwing the ball to the wrong spots and Marion seems to exert all his energy on defense, which clearly means he has to miss more layups.

The Mavericks are a mess. I'm not sure when they'll be a mess anymore. I don't think the players know either.