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5 observations as the feckless Mavericks lose to the Philadelphia 76ers, 106-100

Dallas basketball has become fairly unwatchable

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Philadelphia 76ers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks fell to the Philadephia 76ers on Saturday night, 106-100. Ben Simmons wreaked havoc on Dallas, posting a triple double with 20 points, 14 rebounds, and 11 assists. Wesley Matthews was the high point man for the Mavericks with 18.

Dallas began the game with yet another awful effort by the mismatched starting line up, as the Mavericks gave up easy buckets while insisting on running set plays where specific players just had to take their pre-determined shots. Things only improved for the Mavericks when the bench unit entered the game. The Sixers took a 31-26 lead into the second frame.

The second unit kept pushing and took a four point lead during a significant chunk of the second quarter. The starting unit gave the lead up immediately and the Mavericks trailed at the half 51-59.

The starters finally showed some life in the third quarter, but were unable to chip into the Sixer lead. Philadelphia's rotation allowed their best players to see significant time against the Maverick bench during the second half of the quarter and the Sixer lead exploded. Dallas trailed 87-70 at the end of three.

Philadelphia got their lead to has high as 19 before taking their foot off the gas some. The Maverick bench took advantage and cut the lead down to 10. The starters then closed the gap to as few as four points in the final minutes before time ran out. Dallas leaves Philadelphia with the league’s worst road record (3-18), losing 106-100..

Some additional thoughts:

This starting unit does not work

There’s enough of a sample size (294 minutes) to say this definitively. Dennis Smith, Luka Doncic, Wesley Matthews, Harrison Barnes, and DeAndre Jordan post a net rating of -5.7 points per 100 possessions and that was before tonight’s game where all of the starters but Jordan posted plus minuses of -20 points or more. They are astoundingly bad.

According to NBA lineup data this line up is the worst 5 man unit with 250+ minutes and it’s not even close. Cutting it down to 200 minutes there is one trash fire Chicago Bulls line up that’s worse and a weird Rockets one that doesn’t work either.

What the Mavericks continue to see in this unit is beyond me.

The rotations are bad too

I touched on this in the last recap I did and seeing the Sixers play only reinforced it. I fail to understand how both Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid can see significant time against the Maverick back ups yet Luka Doncic and Harrison Barnes get almost zero looks against lesser Sixer players. That’s a failure in Dallas coaching.

I understand how over the long haul establishing a rotation and sticking to it matters, but Dallas isn’t good enough to play the long game. Every loss in the West matters and these last few losses have been awful in large part because they’ve been death by 1000 cuts. The Mavericks just aren’t talented enough to have these hockey shift changes.

Dallas doesn’t get easy looks for their best players

Twice in the first quarter, I wrote down that Ben Simmons got a great look at the rim. The first was on a back screen where he cut to the rim from the free throw line and got a lay up. The second was a lay up from the left block after getting a cross screen. The Mavericks don’t have a scoring threat like Joel Embiid to open things up like the Sixers do but the closest Dallas ever tries are isolation post ups from the short corner for Wesley Matthews or Harrison Barnes.

Doncic is the best player for the Mavericks. I see it. You see it. The league sees it. Do the Maverick coaches see it? The first and only time Doncic got a post up, he scored and got the foul. Doncic rarely is involved in plays where he’s moving to the basket without the ball. He tries to cut that way a lot but he’s not getting the ball often. Heck, Barnes is shooting 42% from three! Maybe get him a catch and shoot look coming off a couple of screens.

The Maverick offense has no creativity and it’s become easy to scout. They must do better.

Time to get Luka Doncic (or heck, the Mavericks) a free throw coach?

As a man prone to overreactions, this may be one, since Doncic is dealing with a toe injury and nearly hurt himself crashing into a camera man.

But 75% from the free throw line isn’t going to cut it. He’s shooting 50% in three games in 2019 and while the sample size is very small, it’s been a small but important part of why the Mavericks keep losing these close games.

Dirk Nowitzki has obviously spoiled me on the free throw shooting, but getting to the mid-80’s for free throws has to be a goal for Luka during his development the next few years.

The lack of shooting has caught up with the Mavericks

After a hot shooting performance against the Hornets this may seem like an overreaction, but Dallas does not have enough shooting from distance. In their last three losses, Dallas is 34-113 from deep, good for 30%.

Both Harrison Barnes and Wesley Matthews are good three point shooters, but the creaky weird offense doesn’t get them a lot of looks unless things are running through Doncic as a point guard. Otherwise each is often left to get threes in less than ideal situations. Doncic’s fine, but he’s a streaky rookie and so few of his looks are assisted.

The bench has two shooters above 30%, Barea who is at 30% and Dorian Finney-Smith at 35%, but his stats are boosted by a hot October/November. That’s hard to survive in a league where shooting matters now more than ever.

Perhaps Ryan Broekoff (3-5 from three vs the Sixers) should get a little more burn.