The Mavericks lost a rough one yesterday. It was, for a brief moment, a four point game in the third quarter. Even then, it never felt that close. The collapse started on the 9-0 run Miami used to close out the first quarter and Dallas was completely out of it by halftime.
Here's a few thoughts I had about what transpired.
The defense was bad for more reasons than poor energy
Dallas' guards can't defend AT ALL
It's been well discussed that this team is terrible defensively. I'm here to say: blame it on the guards.
Oh boy. Oh boy oh boy oh boy.
The effort is part of it. To repeat a Twitter joke I made, if you were playing a drinking game with the words "energy" and "playing hard" from last night's locker room quotes last night, you are now dead. It was the theme of just about every question and answer, and yes, it didn't look like the Mavericks were closing out quite as hard as they could.
But it's more than that, and all season it's probably going to be more than that. Slow rotations are bad; wrong rotations are bad. The Mavericks were doing both on Sunday night. Miami took advantage of it by running cutters in and out of the lane, sometimes three or four each time down the floor. Too many times, two defenders would collapse to help on the cutter or none would, giving up either an open 3-pointer or a layup. Too many times, Miami took advantage of it, as any good team will.
Rick Carlisle will probably get this figured out to whatever degree it can be "figured out." He can't change the fact that the Mavericks don't have good defensive guards and only one two-way player on the entire team (Tyson), barring a defensive turnaround from Chandler Parsons that's still possible. But hey, this is why he earns his money. It doesn't have to be pretty, just good enough to keep Dallas in the game.
Dallas will struggle tremendously playing from behind
The Mavericks offense is good and their defense is bad. Those are now facts we've established early this season.
Now, let's consider the consequences. The Mavericks started the started second half down 11 points to Miami, currently the fifth best offense in the league, after playing mediocre defense and struggling on offense.
Against an offense that good -- and trust me, the Heat were fantastic attacking Dallas on Sunday with their constant off-ball movement and sideline-to-sideline passing -- the best that Dallas defense could have hoped for was a 50-point second half. That's a solid half in most games for this Mavericks defense, depending on the circumstances of course, because it typically will give the offense a chance to win the game.
But when you're down 11, and the best you can do is limit Miami to 50, all of a sudden you're looking at a required 62 point half or better. The Mavericks can do that -- and in fact, they have in three of the 14 halves they've played this year. Having to score that many is a very different mindset, though, and a very dangerous one to get into.
The Mavericks will have some double-digit comebacks against teams this year; that's not even a question. Sometimes, against subpar offenses like the Lakers or Hornets, those teams will let the Mavericks back into a game by committing turnovers and only putting up 40 in a half. One or two times, the Mavericks might have that 65-point offensive explosion in the second half when they desperately need it. But without a defense that can turn it up and play a shutdown six minutes or quarter or half, it's hard to recover once you fall behind.
We welcome the return of Dirk Nowitzki, 3-point shooter
At some point in the preseason, Dirk was asked about his greatest accomplishments. I don't remember the except context, but the interviewer rattled off the list: "NBA MVP, NBA Finals MVP, All-Star team selections, All-NBA team selections, NBA 3-point contest title."
"Man, I forgot about that last one," Dirk joked.
It's true, Dirk did win that in 2006. He averaged a little more than three 3-point attempts that year, something that would plummet over the next half decade, falling all the way to 1.5 attempts in the 2009-10 season.
As he's aged, Dirk's slowly reincorporated that shot into his game. Last year, he averaged more than four attempts from deep for the first time since 2002-03, when he was 23. This season, he's topped even that and is taking 4.6 a game.
Part of the reason for that is that Dirk is actually in position to shoot more corner 3-pointers. He's made 2-of-5 from the left corner (no attempts from the right yet), already bettering his 1-of-9 shooting from the corners last year. Take a look at one of them.