Once again, we're here talking about shot making, which seems to ebb and flow with the Dallas Mavericks like traffic on Dallas North Tollway. (You should be thankful if that simile doesn't connect.) On Wednesday, Dallas lost a winnable game against the Hawks mostly because they weren't able to hit critical shots late.
Despite 3-point looks from Nowitzki and -- on a final possession -- Deron Williams, the Mavericks just couldn't bury looks that easily could have gone in. The Mavericks should feel like they missed an opportunity -- with sub-40 percent field goal percentage and sub-30 percent 3-point shooting, that's usually the case.
Here's some further thoughts.
How defenses play Dirk Nowitzki
Two games after small ball Washington doubled Dirk on nearly every touch, Atlanta was content with letting Al Horford and Paul Millsap take on Dirk in single coverage. In response, the Mavericks forced the ball into Dirk repeatedly, watching him take 15 shots through three quarters.
As Dirk continues to scoff at Father Time, this is how the Mavericks will continue to use him. In four of Dirk's last 10 games, including that win in Washington, his shot attempts have remained in the single digits. If defenses play him like that, Dallas is content with using him as a decoy, just like they'll showcase him on nights like this. It's a shame this was a night where he shot wasn't falling with ease, but that shouldn't change how the Mavericks operate.
Offensive boards keep Mavs in it
How do you shoot 36 percent and still keep the game close? By dominating the offensive glass. One of the league's worst teams in terms of o-boards and second chance points turned the tables in this game, exceeding their season average in the third quarter alone. Not surprisingly, Zaza led the way, nabbing seven of his team's 20 offensive boards on his way to a 17 rebound effort ('effort' being the optimal word-choice).
Dallas went 36-100, making their field goal percentage easy to calculate and feel sad about. They also went 7-31 from three, maintaining their high-volume, low-make approach from downtown over the course of the season. There have been games where the ball movement was poor and the shot-quality similarly so, but Dallas had more than a few open looks that simply wouldn't go down. Perhaps most notably was a wide open three from Dirk that would have tied the game that clanged off the rim. Dirk went 6-20 from the field and 1-8 from deep.
Dwight Powell lone bright spot off the bench
Take away Powell and the Dallas bench finishes with 11 points on 17 shots. Powell's activity on offense is impossible to not notice, as he moves extremely well without the ball and generated several easy baskets off nice cuts. The Chandler Parsons bench experience has been a mixed bag and J.J. Barea's return saw him go 0-6 from the floor, so Powell's minutes are all the more important.
Raymond Felton's floater
I have no complex thoughts here. It just goes in frequently and I enjoy watching it.
Barea and Harris come back
J.J. Barea missed six games with an a sprained ankle and Harris just one a rib injury, but both were back on Wednesday against Atlanta. Both are useful players when put in the proper role and when they're hitting shots. Rick Carlisle has mastered the former, but he cannot control the latter, and unfortunately Barea and Harris are two of the main culprits when you talk about Dallas' offensive struggles.
Despite the brief time off, the duo -- who often are paired together in the second unit backcourt -- still aren't generating any magic. Harris was a minus-10 in 11 minutes with four points while Barea was minus-9 in 10 minutes while going scoreless on six shot attempts.
I don't think changes are needed yet, but John Jenkins should be given another look in due time if one of those two can't figure it out. Until Parsons sheds his minutes restriction and Matthews isn't pushed to small forward as frequently, I think Barea's ball handling is still needed. But despite that larger-than-expected deal last summer, I'm afraid we're drawing closer to the moment where Barea is no longer a rotation player.