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The Mavericks offense is offensive

Dallas is in a helluva rut, desperately miss Nerlens Noel and other notes from the loss to Toronto

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Toronto Raptors Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

When I was in driver’s ed, one of the weeks they showed a movie called Red Asphalt — well it was less a movie and more like a real-life nightmare factory.

It was basically real police footage clips immediately following fatal car accidents with no chill at all. It showed crumpled, bloody bodies. Brains scooped off the road and put into bags. Corpses sitting in cars dismembered. I think Eli Roth would have seen this and been like “no thanks i’m good.”

The point was to scare the crap out of teenagers since teenagers are the worst. It worked for me. According to Wikipedia, there are five Red Asphalt movies. The Dallas Mavericks’ last couple games could have been used as footage for Red Asphalt VI.

That might sound like a stretch, but good lord I hope nobody has been operating heavy machinery while watching the Mavs last two games. In both games, the Mavs shot under 40 percent, and more drives to the basket ended in layups that didn’t come close to the rim than actual free throw attempts.

Dallas lost to Toronto Monday night. There really isn’t a word to properly describe how ugly, putrid, disgusting and vile the offense was. Let’s call it a ugputrustile.

Here are some raw numbers from the 100-78 funeral:

  • 36.5 percent overall from the floor
  • 28 percent from three
  • 13 free throw attempts
  • 32 second-half points, including just 12 in the fourth quarter

Holy crap. To shoot that poorly and not compensate with any free throws at all made that a horrible game to watch. There was nothing aesthetically pleasing about the way the Mavs played offense on Monday, not even in the admirable “well at least they’re throwing themselves to the basket” way. It was like watching someone try to break through a concrete wall by throwing eggs at it.

Nobody was exempt from the blame. Even Dirk Nowitzki shot 1-of-7 in the second half after a blistering first frame. Harrison Barnes followed up his 14 free attempts against Phoenix with three tonight. Seth Curry has now had two straight games looking like a 26-year-old who never played a full-NBA seasons worth of games before this season. Yogi-mania is definitely wearing off, Wes Matthews continued to look bad since returning from injury only to leave this game with another injury. It was bad.

There was just no consistent source of offense, or really, a consistent way to generate good looks. Toronto is on another level defensively now that they have Serge Ibaka in tow with Patrick Patterson — the Raptors can switch more than ever and have a lot of big wings to contend with. Curry, Ferrell and J.J. Barea had a real rough time coming off screens and pick and rolls with nothing but arms in their faces. The Raptors played one backup guard who was 6’0 and other than that, all their guards were 6’3 or taller and that made it rough for relative shorties like Curry, Ferrell and Barea.

Dallas desperately misses Nerlens Noel and his ability to play both ways in guarding the rim and rolling to it. Salah Mejri and Dwight Powell are fine for backup bigs, but neither can play a starter’s share of minutes due to their flaws. Powell in particular was tough to watch. The Mavs need Noel back in a big way.

It’s a shame because this slump has come at the worst time. Sure, two losses after a really good month and a half of play isn’t really a cause for panic in a vacuum, but when you consider the Mavs didn’t gain any ground on the Nuggets last week while playing a three-game stretch of the Lakers, Nets and Suns, there is zero margin for error. Onto the notes:

  • After Dirk’s 14-point, 6-of-9 from the floor first half, this is how I felt about the prospects of the Mavs wasting another potential Dirk 20-point game:

Dirk didn’t get to 20 — he only finished with 17 thanks to his stinko second half — so the Mavs are still just 2-5 in games in which Dirk has scored 20 or more points. Way to keep that crappy, soul-crushing number from being more crappier and more soul-crushing Mavs!

  • I’m not sure how tonight will skew the numbers, but entering the night Dallas was a top-10 defense... for the season. Not since Seth Curry has been starting, or Dirk switch to center or since the Noel trade — top-10 for the season. I’ll dig deeper into this later in the week, but it’s mind-boggling. Dallas regularly starts 6’0 Ferrell, a 6’2 Curry and a 6’5 Matthews at the one, two and three, and they are regularly overmatched physically. Matthews fights his ass off, Ferrell is pesky in pick and rolls and Curry is secretly a sneaky good help defender, but tonight it all fell apart. Toronto just threw their size around and none of the Mavs smaller guards could compete. I yearn for the day when the Mavs still have a small lineup without actually being small — you know, like starting a couple 6’5 to 6’7 dudes on the wing next to Barnes.
  • Speaking of Barnes, he was a minus-25 tonight, which is pretty (un)impressive.
  • I’m ready for more minutes from Dorian Finney-Smith. He’s averaged 16 minutes the last two games despite hitting all four of his three-pointers and providing some desperate length next to Harrison Barnes on the wing. When Matthews went down, Finney-Smith started the second half, but the Mavs offense was so bad, Rick Carlisle wanted to juice the offense with Barea, Harris and Curry.
  • This was one of the few games Barnes just looked overwhelmed playing up a position. So far this season, he’s held his own guarding bigger fours, using his above-average strength to try and dislodge bigs from their spots while offering that versatility that has made the Mavs such a tricky team to score against. Serge Ibaka kind of ate his lunch tonight on defense, making life difficult for Barnes from the perimeter and on the boards. Ibaka doesn’t need to be chasing wings all night at this stage of his career, but with Barnes plodding and relatively static offensive game, Ibaka seemed comfortable guarding him. Barnes had just two rebounds tonight along with a very empty 18 points. The Mavs guards couldn’t get anything going at the basket when Ibaka was back there and he was about as much of a menace as someone can be without making a bucket. His defensive versatility killed Dallas.
  • Oh, about Matthews — he’s 8-of-24 from three since coming back from that hip-injury, including a 5-of-7 night from deep against the Lakers. He’s been bad, he got torched by Devin Booker against the Suns and he looks hurt. Matthews will fight this, but the Mavs really need to sit him for a week. I’m fearing he’s turning a little into Monta Ellis, too proud to rest up nagging injuries.
  • The last image I’ll have in my brain of Dwight Powell will be of him standing near the rim with his arms straight up and some guard scooting under his armpits to score an easy layup. A sheet of Brawny paper would offer more resistance guarding the rim than Powell. I’ve been a big fan of Powell’s elite pick and roll game on offense, but the Raptors enjoyed a parade of easy buckets going after Powell on the other end all night.
  • A big, big problem now that Matthews is hurt again is who is going to guard the opposing team’s best wing scorer? That’s Matthews job, but the Mavs are seriously at a loss of defensive-capable wings. It’s basically Matthews and Finney-Smith now that Barnes is a full-time power forward. And what happens when a team has two wing threats? It really feels like Matthews is on an island against elite perimeter guys. Ferrell and Curry can hold their own against good point guards, but if a team starts two guys on the wing who can get buckets, the Mavs defense faces tough decisions.
  • Ferrell and Barea combined for 13 assists and a single turnover, which is nice. They also combined to shoot 2-for-11 from the field and missed all their threes. That is not nice. No Noel is making things difficult for the Mavs point guards in the pick and roll. It’s basically Dirk or nothing. Wish the Mavs used Barnes more as a screener tonight.

And that’s it. On to the next.