The Dallas Mavericks started 2016 in Miami and were promptly destroyed by the Heat, 106-82. Hassan Whiteside looked like a man among boys, pouring in 25 points and grabbing 19 rebounds against an over-matched Dallas front court. Zaza Pachulia appeared to be the only Maverick player ready to perform, putting up 14 points and pulling down 13 rebounds in the loss.
Rick Carlisle's club opened the game missing everything, hitting only 22% of their shots in the first period. The Mavericks never recovered, falling behind by double digits for most of the game despite eventually finding some form of shooting rhythm. The Heat's tough defense put the egalitarian Maverick offense in a bind, with a go-to scorer no where to be found for Dallas. Defensively, the Mavericks put on their worst display in weeks, giving up easy looks on the pick and roll, tons of offensive rebounds, all while making mistake-riddled rotations. The game was decided midway through the third quarter and the Maverick reserves performed no better than their starting counterparts.
Dallas has a NBA-high seven back-to-backs between now and the All Star break, so they cannot afford listless performances like this one. A rough stretch to start the year could set Dallas back as they look to lock down a playoff spot in the second half of the season.
Jose Juan Barea is, in fact, a human being and not a super hero.
After shooting an absurd 70% from three during the last four games of 2015, JJ Barea's shooting came back down to earth in a big way against the Heat, when he went 0 for 5 from distance. A game like this was coming but it still felt surprising to see JJ miss at least two fantastic open looks.
Barea is going to be an asset in spurts as the season wears on, but his time as an effective starter was always going to be a short lived proposition. A coach as smart as Eric Spolestra would eventually take advantage of JJ's shortcomings and the Heat embarrassed Barea on pick and roll situations repeatedly Friday night. Barea is who he is, so it may be best to be surprised by his great games and take a deep breath when he can't buy a bucket or stay in front of his man.
The Maverick front court rotation is a mirage or act of wizardry.
When I say front court, I'm specifically referring to the center and power forward positions. Let's look at the list: Dirk Nowitzki, Zaza Pachulia, Dwight Powell, Charlie Villanueva, and JaVale McGee. Salah Merji gets all the DNP's and Jeremy Evans must've mouthed off to Carlisle at some point because he can't get minutes.
Offensively, the group can be functional, and because of the guards and Rick Carlisle, they've been pretty great this season. But when matched up against a good front court with a coach who has some sense, this group gets exposed over and over. Zaza Pachulia can only play so many minutes and asking Dirk to guard either Bosh or Whiteside is like asking which player do you want to score the next possession. We should all be at peace with the fact that Dirk can't stay with anyone any more, but if he isn't hitting shots (Dirk connected on just 4 of 14 from the field) he becomes an unplayable liability against good teams.
Dwight Powell is fine in stretches and is still young, so when his shot leaves him or if he blows a few defensive assignments, the only rational response is "well, I hope he gets better". With Charlie Villanueva and JaVale McGee, the response is to throw the remote at the television. Merji or Evans are better options defensively. McGee leaves his feet at every oppertunity and Charlie.... watching him do the wrong thing on defense every time is starting to give me ulcers.
Oh, and JaVale did this in a game. Carlisle needs to yank him if he takes even a single shot out of a post up. He's that bad.
Dallas is very reliant on Dirk's ability to make shots
It's not rocket science to see the box score, see that Dirk Nowitzki shot 4 of 14, and then understand that the Mavericks lost. It's still jarring to see just how reliant the Maverick offense is on Dirk scoring to open up looks for everyone else. Miami essentially guarded Dirk one-on-one while sending the occasional second man if Dirk got to one of his favorite spots. The length of the Miami defenders bothered Dirk into an ugly shooting night which went hand in hand with a bogged down Maverick offense.
There have been a handful of games this season where Dallas has won despite Nowitzki shooting badly. The coaching staff needs to find some answers there and I suspect it starts with Chandler Parsons and Deron Williams living up to their reputations. Dirk and Dallas will bounce back, but with the toughest slate of games yet to come, the Mavericks need to find ways to manufacture points from players beyond Dirk Nowitzki.