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3 things from the Mavericks’ historic 80-64 loss to the Grizzlies

The Mavericks are now 2-9 with no relief imminent

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks scored the second lowest point total in franchise history, falling to the Memphis Grizzlies 80-64 on Friday night. Former Maverick Chandler Parsons led the Grizzlies in scoring with 12 in what was a fairly balanced effort. Harrison Barnes chipped in 15 points for a Dallas squad which shot a ghastly 29 percent from the field.

Things looked OK early for the Mavericks. They were able to stick with the Grizzlies despite missing Dirk Nowitzki, Deron Williams, and J.J. Barea, all of whom were out with injuries. After leading 19-18 in the first, Dallas began to falter some as shots simply would not fall. A 10-point second quarter saw the Mavericks trailing 29-36 at the half.

In the third, things started to fall apart as shots continued to rim out for the Mavericks, while the Grizzlies inched further and further ahead. With Seth Curry (11 points, 4-of-14 shooting) as the lead guard, the Mavericks could not get anything going regularly on offense. Trailing 56-41 heading into the final period, the Mavericks were in real danger of posting the lowest point total in Dallas history. The game trudged on though, and the Mavericks were able to score 23 in the final period (including a 3-pointer from Nicolas Brussino in the final minute) to end up with only the second worst point total in Mavericks’ history at 64. The Mavericks are now 2-9, bad enough for last place in the West and second to last in the NBA.

Now, on to some observations.

It’s hard to win when you don’t score.

Shout out to me for stating the obvious, but lordy this team needs some help, and there’s no relief in the immediate future. At the earliest, Dirk and Deron could be back Monday, but each of them should not return until they are absolutely ready.

Earlier in the week Josh jinxed everything by actually talking about the offensive importance of J.J. Barea, and with Barea out for a while, it’s painfully obvious that things may stay frustrating for Dallas. On a night where the flaming hot Harrison Barnes is cold (15 points on 5-17 shooting), there’s not anyone else to really get the offense going. Wesley Matthews is not a shot creator, and Andrew Bogut may be the team’s best passer right now.

Seth Curry and new Maverick Jonathan Gibson are not natural point guards, and while both are reasonably talented penetrators, passing out of those drives is not a top tier skill for either.

Justin Anderson has such a long way to go.

I nearly typed “Justin Anderson has regressed a great deal” but that’s not fair. He’s being asked to do things he’s not good at, which include dribbling, shooting, and driving. Defensively, the team is so unfamiliar with one another at this point, he’s looking out of play often enough for it to feel like he doesn’t know what he’s doing. He does, but I’m not sure how much he’s growing when he’s being asked to do things which are outside of his ideal usage.

We should nitpick a few things about Harrison Barnes.

It’s fair to say that I was very wrong about Barnes. That said, if this is teetering towards a lost season, it’s time to start looking at what we can hope for in terms of individual growth. He’s the team’s best player, but he also needs to improve in a number of areas since being the best player on a horrible team doesn’t matter.

There are two main areas he could stand to improve. First, his free throws. He’s shooting the 8th highest number of field goal attempts per game in the league and is 41st in free throw attempts. Historically, 20-point-per-game scorers have a free throw rate around .300 (3 free throws per every 10 field goal attempts) which means about six free throws a game. Barnes is currently below this level at around .250. It’s important to know that he’s trending up in the young season. I think he can get there.

Second, he really needs to start setting up his teammates more. Currently, he’s scoring in isolation plays more than anyone not named Russell Westbrook or James Harden, so him averaging less than one assist per game isn’t registering. Barnes’s usage rate is so high that his scoring may well keep pace, but unless he wants to be the second coming of Rudy Gay, he’s got to start dishing out assists. Now, it’s clear the Mavericks can’t shoot (second-worst team field goal percentage in the league), so it’s fair to point to his teammates. I’m not sure what a reasonable assist goal should be, but it needs to be higher than his current 0.9 per game.

See everyone tomorrow night as the Mavericks look to bounce back against the equally horrible Orlando Magic.