Watching Dallas play this season has been difficult, and tonight was no exception as the Mavericks lost 109-87. The Mavericks trailed virtually the entire game, and despite keeping it within roughly 10 points for almost 3 quarters, a Trevor Ariza 3 point barrage (4 consecutive to be exact) late into the third quarter gave the Rockets separation that the offensively challenged Mavericks would fail to close. Despite isolated incidents of spirited one-on-one defense, as a team, Dallas had another poor outing. Dallas let Houston shoot its most efficient quarter of basketball at 68.4% in the opening frame, and got blown out from the three point line. While Wes Matthews did his best with 26 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 forced jump balls, James Harden dominated all around with 18 points 16 assists and 9 rebounds.
Dallas could not defend the three point line
It was almost as if the Mavericks were unaware that the Rockets take and make a lot of shots from beyond the arc. Tonight, the Dallas defense allowed almost every player in a Houston jersey look like C.J. Miles as the Rockets shot a crisp 19/37 from the three point line. Despite finding a way to limit James Harden to a pedestrian 2/8 from distance, along with keeping Ryan Anderson at bay, the Mavs allowed guys like Beverley, Ariza, and Gordon to go off.
What was especially painstaking to watch was that many of the conceded threes were not well contested. Yes, James Harden is a master at bending the defense by knifing into the lane, and yes, that is the whole philosophy behind the Houston offense, but that isn’t why the Mavs got shot out of this game today. On too many occasions, players got caught ball watching in situations where they neither aggressively helped on Harden, or stayed glued to the player they were guarding. A half step closer to the paint did nothing to deter Harden from driving, but gave Ariza/Beverley/Gordon/Brewer/Dekker the extra second they needed to get off a clean look. This is just poor defense.
Another easy way that Houston generated easy looks was to simply pull up after one dribble off a screen, while the Mavericks defenders involved in the play were preoccupied with the “do we switch or not” decision. Today, there was too much of hand down, man down. Sigh.
Talent is lacking, but players need to stick to their strengths
After over 20 games, its clear that this team does not have the talent to win in the NBA. Too frequently, I find myself thinking “man, the 2nd, 3rd, 4th option on (insert opposing team) would be the #1 option on Dallas. Seriously: tell me you wouldn’t love seeing Eric Gordon in blue right now.
That said, the players on Dallas need to play to their strengths. After a horrid start to the season, Wes Matthews has found his shooting touch. He rarely hesitates when he sees daylight from beyond the arc, and has been showcasing a nice little pull up once he gets in and around the paint. Although there was an ugly adjustment period early on, he has largely settled in. Others need to as well.
This means when Brussino is in the game, he needs to look to shoot as he adds 0 value when he puts the ball on the floor. Curry is not as bad, but also needs to stop turning down good looks to put the ball on the floor as it rarely leads to a better one. Jonathan Gibson is another offender who doesn’t look to score enough despite being the best or second best (healthy) creator on this team.
Dallas is already an offensively challenged team, and without Dirk, the philosophy of turning down a good look for a great look is moot because the great looks are not likely to materialize. As Dave Chappelle as Prince once said: Shoot the J. Shoot it!
Dallas needs Deron Williams to play well, especially with Dirk out
Although D-Will didn’t score in the second half, and finished with a quiet 9 points and 6 assists, Dallas needs him to play big. With Barea out and Harris working his way back from injury, Deron is the only player that draws help and can create plays for others while working off of a screen.
While he may not be the explosive point guard from his Utah days, in the occasions that Dallas gets Deron Williams a head of steam coming downhill, good things tend to happen. Whether he’s whipping a pass to the corner, lobbing towards the rim, or pulling up for a soft jumper himself, Deron is the best all around offensive player not named Dirk on this team. Matthews may have found his touch from deep, but isn’t a threat off of the dribble even with screening action, and despite his 20+ points per game, the ball sticks with Barnes. Deron is the only player on Dallas equipped with the skills to both create for himself and others, and although it may be asking too much of a injury riddled player, he needs to do more if this team is to have a chance.