We are in the nadir of the Mavericks season right now. Dallas looks lifeless at times, incompetent at others and lost their fourth straight game on Wednesday night, getting beat 99-95 by the Rockets in Houston.
Dallas had a pretty good start to the game, leading 21-11 behind a balanced attack. Tyson chipped in some dunks, Dirk threw in a 3 and Parsons and Monta both had some buckets. The defense seemed sound enough, but it didn't last.
The Mavericks offense dried up after the hot start, seemingly stuck between 25 and 30 points for the end of time. Turnovers were the culprit. And we're not talking just aggressive mistakes, we're talking brain-dead throwaways. Dallas had 13 first-half turnovers and Houston thrived in transition, bombing threes and getting to the rim.
Even with James Harden having a so-so first-half, they led 54-53 at the break. Dallas opened the third trying to better take care of the ball, but it didn't really matter -- their defense totally collapsed as Trevor Ariza and Corey Brewer kept hitting from beyond the arc.
The offense continued to look meager. Rick Carlisle kept throwing out all sorts of lineups in the second half, including a Aminu-Charlie V front court and playing Aminu and Rondo together. None of them seemed to work and despite Aminu's huge defensive plays throughout the game, his lack of shooting cramped Dallas' offense at times (aka all the time).
The fourth quarter was back and forth, but the Mavs could never get over the hump. It ended about as frustratingly as the entire game played out -- Tyson was fouled hard going to the rim with the Mavs down 97-94 and about 16 seconds left. Officials called it a flagrant-1, Tyson then missed BOTH free throws and the Mavs threw the ball away on the inbounds. SOUNDS FAMILIAR, HUH?
Dallas has lost four in a row and may god have mercy on our souls. Here are the notes.
- Chandler Parsons had a good game scoring-wise (21 points, 8-of-13 from the field) and the Mavs did a really nice job getting him going in the first quarter. Parsons has good pick-and-roll skills but he's never been super comfortable as the primary initiator of an offense. That's why it was so nice to see Parsons catching the ball on the move from a pin-down that transitioned seamlessly into a Dirk pick-and-roll. Parsons killed it on the handful of times he was involved in working off of secondary action. I wish the Mavs did this more, instead of having Parsons stand behind the arc aimlessly (like he did for stretches of the third and fourth quarters) or try to bail out the offense at the end of the shot clock. More catching on the move for Parsons please. More side pick-and-rolls with Dirk after the first action is completed, please.
- DISCLAIMER BEFORE I GET PISSED: This was the Mavs' fourth game in five nights, the second night of a back to back and they still hung in there with one of the league's best and a top-3 MVP candidate.
- That being said, what the fu...dge, Rajon Rondo. Rondo's line tonight (0-for-7 from the field, 6 assists, 5 turnovers, 0 points) somehow doesn't even fully explain how dreadful he was offensively tonight. Most of those 5 turnovers were unforced, aimless passes as Rondo would dribble into a congested lane with no where to go. Guess that's what happens when you are virtually zero threat to score the ball. Rondo didn't look particularly close on any of his jumpers, passed up layups under the hoop and his defender was ALWAYS lurking in the paint. Dirk had zero space after setting screens for him and the Mavs offense in general continued to look magnificently shitty with him on the floor. Just an embarrassing offensive game for him.
- To make matters worse, Rick Carlisle paired Rondo and Al-Farouq Aminu in certain lineup combos. There was one instance in the third quarter where Aminu and Rondo shared the same side of the floor -- Rondo in the corner, Aminu on the wing -- and BOTH of their defenders had a foot and a half in the paint. That destroys spacing. Those two simply cannot play together if the Mavs want to have any shot of opening up the floor for Dirk and Monta Ellis.
- That said, Rondo's defense (toward the end of the game) was somewhat inspiring, as he hounded James Harden off the ball, preventing Harden from going to work and do a lot of damage late in the game. Rondo's ball denial in the last two minutes was superb and Harden only attempted 14 shots, three free throws and was held under 20 points (17 to be exact).
- Dirk's inability to consistently rebound is just killer. Dude gets pushed around way too easily, even when he has position.
- The Mavs lost a game by five and Josh Smith hit career-high 4-of-5 behind the arc. Basketball can be a real shithead sometimes, you know?
- We all knew the Mavs bench would suffer post-Rondo, but perhaps not like this. Devin Harris has been awful since the trade and was at his worst tonight. Zero points on four misses, zero assists and three turnovers. Harris hasn't been able to do anything since Brandan Wright is not setting screens for him, which we all anticipated but we figured Harris was a better player to at least overcome that loss a little.
- Monta was spectacular tonight, spacing issues be damned. He was the entire Mavs offense, scoring 33 points. He hit tough shots and really had no space around the basket. The Mavs spacing was so shitty, but he managed to turn corners, create some space and knock down some buckets.
- Dwight Powell played 9 minutes. Charlie V played 7. Who knows.
- Aminu had a weird game. He scored 10 points, he had six damn blocks, three steals and seven rebounds. That looks good, right! And it did seem good...till you realize Aminu mucked up the offense so badly, especially with Rondo, that it almost didn't matter. Defenders just don't pay any attention to him.
- What the hell is the deal with the Mavs and not inbounding the ball. I don't get it. Even after the catastrophic inbounds that lost them the game, THEY ALMOST DID IT AGAIN ON THEIR NEXT POSSESSION.
- Time for late-night Mavs confessions: This team is not fun to watch and they suck the joy out of everything I've been doing lately. That's a little dramatic, but holy shit, it's just brutal to watch this team play over the last week. Even the Memphis win was excruciating. I get team has to grind out wins in a different way with Rondo in the lineup but the team just plays this really weird style that just causes me to zone off and question my purpose in the universe. They lack urgency. Every possession looks like they're just wildly guessing on a multiple choice question during a test instead of actually knowing what the answer is. Sometimes they guess right. And cool! But they also guess wrong and those possessions are the absolute worst. I hope this team figures it back out and they will, because they're really good. Post-Rondo win-loss record be damned, the Mavericks have shown they can be a pretty damn good team with this group. They've also shown they can also be pretty damn bad.
- For better or worse, this is the team. No signing of some bench 3-and-D wing or grabbing Jermaine O'Neal will change the fact that the Mavs starters are Rondo-Ellis-Parsons-Dirk-Tyson. That's who the Mavs will live and die with. They've just gotta figure it out. I hope it is soon because...