It sounds weird, but the Mavs haven’t been that bad in December. A handful of wins plus some competitive losses along with the Mavs slowly getting healthier led to some positive feeling around the team over the last couple of weeks.
That didn’t carry over in the Mavs 117-107 loss to the Nuggets in Denver on Monday night. Dallas took a double-digit lead in the second quarter and then looked lost defensively the rest of the night, allowing Denver to do what they pleased on the offensive end without much resistance.
Here’s some things from the loss:
The Mavericks three-point defense is an abomination
BREAKING NEWS: the Mavs could not find their man behind the line on defense. Dallas allows a league-worst 39 percent from three to opposing teams and Denver just scorched Dallas all night. It wasn’t even that complex — simple pick and rolls, handoffs and dribble-drive kick outs all flummoxed each Mavs defender equally. The Nuggets hit 13-of-24 from three.
It’s insane that a team that plays as many good perimeter athletes like the Mavs do at once (Wesley Matthews, Harrison Barnes, Justin Anderson and Dorian Finney-Smith) that they can’t close out, but here we are. The Mavs pick and roll defense is very conservative, with the big guarding the play dropping back into the paint. That means the weakside wings have to dig in to help out, and the Mavs simply can’t recover and make those rotations when the ball swings to the other end of the court after a screen and roll.
It also didn’t help that Emmanuel Mudiay, who is shooting 30.5 from three this season, hit a career high four 3-pointers. The Mavs were probably OK helping off him. Those are the kind of breaks you get in a season like this.
J.J. Barea is back and he makes this team competent
When Barea went down on Nov. 16, he was the only Mav with a positive net-rating. When he returned to the lineup tonight, he was still the Mav with the only positive net-rating. So yeah, to say the Mavs missed him was an understatement.
Since the Mavs are steamrolling that tank right down Draft Lottery Blvd., Barea had a minutes restrictions from his first game back from that brutal looking calf-injury. In those 13 minutes, he had 11 points and four assists and was generally a sight for sore eyes.
Finally the Mavs point guard rotation is settling into place. During Barea’s first-half run, everyone was where they should be — Deron Williams starting but not feeling like the only ball-handler on the roster, Barea leading second-units, Seth Curry be able to play off-ball and Devin Harris not turning into powder because he doesn’t have to play 25 minutes a night.
It wasn’t hard to see in the first half how this current, Dirk-less version of the Mavs could be a semi-OK team that can handle non-playoff teams. Dallas had a 14-point lead in the second-quarter while Barea was still getting minutes. They looked OK!
Mavs have no answer defensively inside
It’s not surprising Nikola Jokic tore up the Mavs, but I wasn’t expecting Jokic to look like a Dad playing against his kids in the driveway against the Mavs.
Bless Dwight Powell’s heart, but he was overwhelmed completely by Jokic’s size. Powell and Jokic are both listed at 6’11, but Jokic’s wingspan is 7’3, while Powell’s is 7’0. It doesn’t seem like much on paper, but Jokic simply extended his arms and he was open every time he was being guarded by Powell.
Some of Jokic’s buckets and rebounds were comical. He’d be surrounded by multiple Mavs in the paint and literally just put his arms higher than everyone and score or grab the ball off a rare Nuggets miss. He finished with 27 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists. Jokic is not an incredibly athletic player, but he’s very skilled. All it takes is someone to force the issue defensively to pressure Jokic into plays he’s not athletically capable of. The player to do that is not on the Mavs roster.
Also Jokic is really damn good.