The Dallas Mavericks fell to 0-2 Friday night after losing to the Sacramento Kings 93-88. George Hill led a balanced effort from Sacramento, scoring 21 on 9 of 12 shooting and dishing out 5 assists. Harrison Barnes was the high point man for Dallas, putting up 24 in the loss.
With rookie point guard Dennis Smith out for at least two games with knee soreness, the Mavericks opted for a more traditional line up with Nerlens Noel at center, Dirk Nowitzki at power forward, and Harrison Barnes sliding down to small forward. Jose Juan Barea and Wesley Matthews started in the back court.
Dallas looked spry early, with Dirk connecting on a pair of jumpers to keep the Kings at bay. Barnes got involve with an iso jumper while Nerlens contributed with a pair of dunks. Sharing the ball was an early theme of the Maverick offense with nearly every basket coming off a pass. Skal Labissiere kept the Kings close, contributing six points off the bench. Despite a solid start, the Mavericks only led Sacramento 23-19 after one period.
The second quarter saw Dallas attempt to break the game open, building a double digit lead repeatedly in the early part of the quarter. Strong defense from Salah Merji plus good shooting from Yogi Ferrell kept the game exciting. Dorian Finney-Smith seemed to find his confidence, playing excellent defense, hitting a few key buckets, and contributing positive activity on the offensive glass. Yet the Kings were not to be denied. On the strength of 12 first half offensive rebounds, Sacramento hung around. Somehow, the Kings tied Dallas at 46 just before the half.
The wheels came off for the Mavericks in the third. While the Kings shot just 35% in the opening half, offensive rebounds kept the game close. When that poor shooting regressed to the mean some, the Kings build a solid lead on the Mavericks. Dallas went ice cold, scoring just 14 points in the period. Sacramento took a commanding 71-60 lead into the final period.
Yet the Mavericks weren’t done yet. A 12-0 run stretching over the first 2:30 put the Kings on their heels. That one point lead would last the Mavericks just under one minute of game action. After retaking the lead on a Labissiere jumper, the Kings would not trail for the remainder of the game. Dallas repeatedly attempted to counter, but could never quite retake the lead. Harrison Barnes scored 17 of his 24 in the final quarter, yet it was not enough as the Mavericks fell to Sacramento 93-88
The lack of playmakers could become problematic, quickly
Dennis Smith, Jr. is out with a knee injury. Seth Curry is out with a stress fracture. Devin Harris is mourning the loss of his brother. That leaves Jose Juan Barea and Yogi Ferrell as the only guards with any experience left on the roster (shout out to Gian Clavell getting his first NBA playing time tonight though).
Yogi’s best role is a spark plug, running the offense in small spurts where he looks to score. That leaves Barea as the last, best hope for the Mavericks offense. For a while, it worked against the Kings. Dallas had assists on something like 11 of it’s first 12 baskets. Yet it’s rare that Barea can pick apart a defense for an entire game.
Things could get ugly quickly, unless one of the aforementioned players makes a hasty return.
It’s about the offensive rebounding
At the half, the Mavericks had surrendered 12 offensive rebounds. Though they only allowed four more the remainder of the game, they’re allowing 15 per game after only two contests. The Kings have a good front court. The Hawks do not. To say I’m concerned about the Rockets, then Warriors is an understatement.
The 40 year old German guy led the Mavericks in rebounding. Unlike some of the other Dallas problems, there’s nothing on the roster to indicate this problem will get better.
Welcome to the season, Harrison Barnes
This is a little unfair, as he had 14 points and 7 rebounds on opening night (including nine free throw attempts). Against the Kings he had 7 points, one rebound and one assist through three quarters. He came alive in the final period, scoring 17 points on an array of shots, drives, and free throws. He once again got to the line nine times, which probably isn’t sustainable. But if he gets there five times again the Dallas offense will be in pretty good shape.
Oh yeah, one more thing... Barnes did a really good job on Zach Randolph in the post. Z-Bo is a pro’s pro in terms of crafy post moves and while Barnes didn’t contain him, both he and Noel forced Randolph into a 5 of 15 night from the floor.
Wesley Matthews looks rough
That he’s averaging 4.5 turnovers a game is probably an outlier. That he hasn’t hit a two point shot probably doesn’t matter either (16 of his 19 FGA’s have been threes).
But he doesn’t look right. Past the fourth quarter against the Hawks where he hit 3 of 5 three pointers to help keep Dallas in it, Wes has looked off his game both offensively and defensively. Right now it’s clearly a matter of necessity with the Mavericks not having wing options. But the Mavericks need him to be a consistent option if they’re to have any success this season.