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Mavs give up 5th straight loss to Blazers, 105-95

Welp. Welp welp welp.

Portland Trail Blazers v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Mavs are 0-5. That feels really weird to say. Maybe because it’s the first time it has ever happened.

But here we are. This was actually an enjoyable game, for me anyway, especially with the young guys getting some burn. In the end, Dallas had no answer for Damian Lillard. That’s okay though, I’m sure few teams do. Let chat about a few things.

New starting lineup, same result

With Andrew Bogut out at the last minute for “personal reasons,” Dallas elected to go full Nellieball with its starting lineup. Barea started in Bogut’s place, moving Wes, Barnes, and Dirk up a position each. Yes that’s right, that mythical creature known as starting center Dirk Nowitzki showed up again, however briefly.

Unfortunately, the first part of the first quarter looked just like the start to every other Mavs game this season. Dallas very quickly found itself in an 0-6 hole. Once some subs came in, Dallas got back into it. This is the Mavs this season, I guess.

As for the new starting lineup, it played exactly as well on defense as you would expect a lineup starting JJ Barea and Dirk at the 5 would play. The question is whether this lineup happened solely because Bogut was out, or if Rick Carlisle is intentionally tinkering to address this ongoing problem of starting the game poorly.

So this is what a lead feels like?

Some of us were talking today about the Mavs inability to take a lead this season. Apparently they’ve had a lead the fewest minutes of any team this season (something like a total of 15 minutes over the first 4 games). So it was really cool and a little bewildering when the Mavs went on a run and took a 5-point, and then later a 7-point, in the first half.

I mean, that was fun right?! Of course, shortly thereafter Damian Lillard came back into the game, and the Blazers built up another decently sized lead. But then Dallas finished the half on a 7-0 run to narrow the lead to 3.

Unfortunately, Dirk spent the 2nd half in the locker room, attending to a sore Achilles. Dame did all the Dame things. And Dallas fell behind by 16 points. Then some stuff happened that I’ll get to in a hot minute, and Dallas got right back into it. Alas, it wasn’t nearly enough, and they didn’t lead again for the rest of the game. But hey, it was fun while it lasted, right?

The Mavs are better when they’re young and energetic

So far this season, Seth Curry, Justin Anderson, and Dwight Powell have not played noticeably well, individually. In particular, Curry and Anderson have both been quite underwhelming. Which makes it weird to say this, but I really think Dallas just looks better when two or more of those guys are on the floor.

The first half run to take the lead really got going once Powell and Curry where in the game. And then the Mavs were able to start chipping into the Blazers’ 16-point 3rd quarter lead once Simba and Salah Mejri came into the game. The chipping away accelerated with some additional help from Quincy Acy and Seth Curry, culminating with a 14-1 run to end the quarter. Something else that is interesting to me is that D-Will did some of his best work of the game in both of those stretches as well.

*** One glaring caveat here: Dame was on the bench for large portions of these two stretches.

I really have no idea if there is anything to this, but to me, the team just feels different. The team breaks out of its stupor a bit, and there’s a lot more movement and energy. (Albeit, herky jerky, frenetic energy.) Keep your eye on this trend.

On a similar note, I’m very confused by how limited Mejri’s minutes have been. He’s the team’s only real rim protector (unless you count Simba flying in from nowhere), and he just has this gritty agitator thing you love to see in big men. Plus, I mean, who else on the team is doing stuff like this:

The Mavs simply don’t have a superstar

Watching Dame work tonight provided a stark contrast for me. Whenever the Mavs would threaten the Blazers, Dame would come in and promptly set fire to everything. There was just nothing Dallas could do about it. It was spectacular and fun, and the truly quality teams in this league have at least one guy who can do that most nights.

Dallas doesn’t have anyone like that. It’s always been Dirk, but I don’t know that he’s quite been that the past couple of years. And this season, he’s missed half the games. Barnes is the team’s leading scorer, and Barea is seemingly the engine that makes the offense go more often than not, but neither of them are anything close to that guy either.

Damian Lillard can put a team on his back and drag them to glory—and to it in style. Barnes, or Barea, or Dirk (when healthy) can all try at it, but they just aren’t in that same category. That’s why you have a game like this, where the Mavs were pretty competitive throughout, but Portland was never really in danger of losing.

C’est la vie, these days anyway. Let’s hope Dirk is alright.