The Dallas Mavericks’ road woes caught up with them Monday night. A game in which they held a 67-54 lead at the half over the Los Angeles Lakers quickly unraveled in the third quarter. Dallas never recovered and it fell, 107-97. While there were a number of reasons for yet another bad loss, poor ball movement was a contributing factor.
“We didn’t move the ball as well [in the second half] as we did in the first half,” Luka Doncic said after the game. “And that was it.”
Doncic blamed himself for some of the team’s passing issues but he’s not the only one to blame. Dallas totaled a mere 12 assists on the night. J.J. Barea led the team with three.
Low assist totals have become a trend for the Mavericks of late. In their last three games, they are averaging just 18.3 dimes. Dallas’ season average is 22.6 per game. This downward trend is in stark contrast to the way the team moved the ball last week against the Charlotte Hornets, when they totaled 31 assists.
“The game in Charlotte, the ball moved beautifully,” head coach Rick Carlisle said. “It was beautiful to watch. It didn’t stick at all for the entire game. But, you know, we popped in 10 threes in the first quarter, so things were going good and it’s easier for the ball to move. We’ve just got to get to a point where it becomes a habit and not something that’s only a convenience.”
Right now, it’s clear that there are too many players trying to force the issue, trying to create on their own. That leads to poor decisions and turnovers. Unfortunately for Dallas, a lot of those questionable plays come from the starters. Against the Lakers, the starting five had five assists and 14 turnovers.
Poor play is something we’ve come to expect from Carlisle’s starting unit, however. This season, the lineup of Doncic, Dennis Smith Jr., Wesley Matthews, Harrison Barnes, and DeAndre Jordan is minus-53. That’s the worst mark of any five-man lineup on the team, yet they’ve played the most minutes together. It’s this unit that was on the floor as Dallas ceded its lead to Los Angeles.
“That group has had struggles,” Carlisle said about his starters. “So, I’m looking very closely at everything right now.”
At some point, something has to give. The lack of ball movement is troubling but the continued disfunction of the starting five needs to be remedied. For his part, Carlisle is at least acknowledging the problem. But if the team wants to retain its lofty hopes of making the playoffs, it needs to make a change sooner rather than later. Otherwise they can count on more disappointing losses like Monday night’s.