The Dallas Mavericks entered the Staples Center on Halloween Night looking to vanquish their four game losing streak and pick up their first road win of the season. A marquee matchup between the Mavs phenom rookie Luka Doncic and his childhood idol LeBron James stole the headlines heading into this matchup.
Two struggling teams fighting to find their respective ways out of an early season hole. Sadly, the Mavs struggles continued in a heartbreaking 114-113 loss led by a late Wesley Matthews mental error to give the Lakers the win.
Here are four things we learned:
Mavs once again start slow out of the gate in both halves
Head coach Rick Carlisle made it a point of emphasis heading into Wednesday night’s matchup that his squad needed to play their style of basketball from the top off. After what seemed to be a blur of purple and gold jerseys running up and down the court, the Lakers got out to a 8-0 run on the first few plays of the first quarter. At one point, the Lakers went on a crucial 15-0 run that lead to the Lakers leading 38-21. Blown mismatches, wide open looks, and just flat out poor executed basketball led to the Lakers shooting 65 percent in the first quarter and a whopping 66 percent from deep.
After a solid recovery in the second quarter when they trimmed the deficit down to 8 points going into the half, the Mavs reverted to their old ways to start the 3rd quarter. LeBron wasted no time scoring the Lakers first 8 points of the quarter. The Mavs starters looked rattled and completely out of sync on both ends of the floor.
A smarter start to the game could have easily knocked down the big runs the Lakers went on and would have prevented the Mavs from playing behind the entire night.
Turnovers continue to be an issue
When you give a young and athletic team an excuse to roam free on fast break opportunities, you’re not going to win too many basketball games. The Mavericks found a way to turn over the ball 23 times on Wednesday night, the most they have allowed so far this year, which led to 24 points off turnovers. The Lakers rely on their athletic ability rather than shooting the ball from three, so the mental lapses that led to many of Dallas’s turnovers tonight led to many easy buckets that should have never occurred in the first place.
DeAndre Jordan managed to turn the ball over 6 times, dropping a ball down in the paint on 3 of those occasions which could have led to an easy dunk. The combined backcourt of Smith, Doncic, and Barrea turned the ball over 9 times as many of those came early on in the game and helped the Mavs dig in their own grave.
Clearly, turnovers are never the answer. And if this problem is not figured out soon, the Mavs will be waiting even longer to fight back in that win column.
The bench kept the Mavs in the game from start to finish
If the Mavs had started J.J. Barrea at point guard tonight, they would have won this game.
Obviously, the Mavs weren’t going to start Barea over Dennis Smith Jr., but tonight Smith played his worst game of his season and Barea arguably played his best. The bench as a whole combined for 58 percent shooting and an even more impressive +73 plus/minus rating out on the floor. That is an otherworldly number for the second tier guys to come out and flat out dominate the opposing five they went up against at that time.
When it seemed as though the game was over by the first quarter, Barea and Powell combined for 14 points and brought the Mavs within 6 at one point. Maxi Kleber also lit a spark underneath his teammates with two huge blocks on LeBron James and JaVale McGee.
Although the production from the bench was not enough to secure a Mavs win tonight, it is a positive sign moving forward.
Dennis Smith Jr. and Luka Doncic combine to have worst games of their season so far
It’s hard enough to swallow a one point loss on the road, but knowing that arguably your two best players had their worst games of the season adds insult to injury. From the start, nothing seemed to get going for Smith or Doncic. Through the first half the backcourt pair combined for just 3 points on 1/9 shooting.
On the night in general, Smith tallied just 5 points and shot an abysmal 22 percent from the field. Not only could Dennis not drive and dominate in the paint like he normally does, but his poor decision making also led to his season worse -29 plus/minus differential on the court.
Luka has made it clear through his first 8 NBA games that he likes being a part of big times moments. He showed it in San Antonio, and did it again tonight. Doncic did not record a single point until halfway through the 3rd quarter; his first 19 minutes to be exact. He made up for it in the end though: after he recorded his first basket, he only missed one other time on the night. He also hit two huge three pointers down the stretch to keep the game within two possessions.
Ultimately, the extremely slow start by the two playmakers and young stars on this team might have been what did the Mavs in on Wednesday night.