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3 observations from the Mavericks 120-104 loss to the Rockets

Dallas got caught in the middle of the Houston buzz-saw as the new pieces of the roster are still gelling.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Mavericks lost to the Rockets in Houston 120-104 on Monday night, a predictable loss coming on the second night of a back to back for Dallas and still figuring out their new roster.

Dallas was down by double-figures for most of the night, unable to slow down Houston despite doing a decent job on James Harden for three quarters. The Mavericks actually cut the lead to single digits in the fourth, but then Harden woke up and put the game away,

It’s an interesting time for the Mavericks right now, not really a playoff threat and also not a tanking team while integrating new players from some big trades over the last week. We learn a bit more every game on this new-look Maverick team. Here’s what we noticed on Monday.

The Mavericks did a mostly good job on the stars and forgot the rest

Just looking at their shooting numbers, the Mavericks did a pretty great job on Houston’s big scoring trio of James Harden, Chris Paul and Eric Gordon. Harden shot 9-for-23 but still got 31 points because he’s the basketball borg.

Paul was 5-of-12 and Gordon 4-of-13 from three. You’ll take those numbers when trying to stop Houston, yet the Mavericks got burned by the Rockets role guys — Gerald Green hit 5-of-8 threes, Kenneth Faried missed one of his eight shots while scoring 17 and Iman Shumpert only had six points, but his two 3-pointers in the first half helped Houston build a big lead going into halftime.

You can only hold Harden down for so long, so by the time Dallas clawed back into the game in the fourth quarter, Harden woke up to keep his historic 30-point game streak alive.

Justin Jackson seems OK

When the Mavericks trade Harrison Barnes last week, it was mostly a salary dump. Justin Jackson, the 15th overall pick in the 2017 draft, was brought back in the deal, but the Mavs main goal of the deal was getting off of Barnes and clearing space this summer.

A lot of that was due to Jackson’s mostly underwhelming start to his NBA career so far. Coming into the NBA after three-years of college meant Jackson should have been slightly more seasoned compared to other young players, but he mostly struggled with his shot and place in the league over the last two years. Most Kings observers seemed relieved to see Jackson gone, so this wasn’t the most exciting of moves.

So far though, Jackson is showing a little something. I don’t know how much, but it’s something! Against the Rockets, Jackson was part of the fourth quarter lineup that got the Mavericks back into the game. He finished with nine points on 3-of-5 shooting, one assist and one steal. I said this on Twitter, but Jackson is reminding me of Jae Crowder when he was with the Mavericks. Crowder had lousy shooting percentages, grabbed no rebounds, had no steals or assists or scored many points, yet he was part of the Mavericks best 5-man lineup, thanks to him being really good at moving the ball, playing team defense and doing the little things like boxing out.

Jackson reminds me of that version of Crowder. The kind of player you that never jumps out at you, never really does anything meaningful in the box score, but seems to do some things every now and then that help a team win some games they shouldn’t during a long season. I don’t know if that’s truly Jackson’s place on the roster, but watching him in the small amount of time since the trade, he doesn’t seem as much as a lost project as his Kings tenure felt. Maybe that’s because the Mavericks didn’t draft him 15 overall or maybe I’m still basking in the glow of the Barnes trade. Who knows. Jackson seems alright though.

Maxi making shots!

Maxi Kleber is on the court for his defense, we all know that, but for him to stick around in the starting lineup next season next to Kristaps Porzingis, the Mavericks just need him to do a little more.

He’s showing that off a bit since he’s started games in February with no DeAndre Jordan around. Kleber is averaging 10.3 points per game since the trade and while his three point percentage still isn’t great (33.3 percent) it’s still creeping closer to the league average mark the Mavericks desperately need from him if Kleber is to become a legitimate starter. Kleber had nine points and made 4-of-7 from the field (1-of-2 on threes!) against the Rockets.