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3 thoughts as the Dallas Mavericks fall on the road to the Miami Heat, 126-118

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A winnable game, thrown away by a bad start to the fourth.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Miami Heat Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas fell in Miami Friday night, 126-118. Jimmy Butler led the Heat with 26 points. Seth Curry shot 13 for 15 from the floor for a career high 37 points in defeat for the Mavericks.

The Dallas-Miami match up started fast and furious and kept pace for the entire quarter. Despite a slow offensive start from Luka Doncic, the Mavericks hit seven triples to keep pace with the Heat. Miami pounded it inside, outscoring Dallas 16-4 in the paint. Jimmy Butler punished the Mavericks with 11 in the frame. Each team scored 31 in the quarter.

A mixed unit for Dallas started the second quarter couldn’t keep pace with Miami as the Heat caught fire from downtown. Dallas aided the Heat with repeated second chance opportunities and lethargic effort defensively. Miami led by nine twice, with the Mavericks inching back repeatedly. Zone defense from the Heat slowed the usual rapid Dallas decision-making, throwing the Mavericks off enough to result in numerous late-clock shot attempts. Dallas trailed after 24 minutes, 55-63.

While Luka Doncic found his scoring in the third (11 points), the Dallas Mavericks were unable to string together stops consistently enough to cut into the Miami lead. The Heat continued to use their match-up zone defense to slow the Maverick pace, resulting in numerous late clock shots. After trailing by seven to nine points for most of the frame, Dallas finally cut through the Heat defense in the final three minutes on an 11-2 run to tie the game at 85 a piece. Seth Curry connected on his fourth triple of the quarter to give Dallas their first lead since the first period. The Mavericks marched into the fourth with a 93-88 lead.

The Dallas bench continued it’s recent trend of being absolutely terrible by giving up an 13-0 run in just 3:16. By the time the starters were back in the game, the Heat held all the momentum and quickly pulled ahead by double digits. The Mavericks finally found the basket but were unable to defend it. Time simply ran out for Dallas and the lose a very winnable game, 126-118.

Now, some thoughts:

The defense is an utter disaster

I’ve yet to read a compelling explanation for what Dallas does on defense this season. They fail to match up in transition, rarely, often resulting in mismatches or fouls. The Mavericks do not talk on defense. Players do not get hands up on three point challenges. It’s maddening.

The Heat shot over 50% from the field and nearly 50% from distance. They give up easy looks at the rim. No one ever considers hedging on a screen when a good shooter is involved (see Duncan Robinson’s attempts for more). Dallas doesn’t have a single guard that can stay with opposing guards who can take more than one dribble. It’s gross.

Some of this is fixable by effort, which the Mavericks showed little of during most of the contest. Some of this is scheme. I don’t understand what Dallas is doing because it hasn’t worked for significant stretches in 2020.

The bench unit is bad and there is little Dallas can do about it

The Maverick bench unit gave up 13 straight points in 3:16 seconds to start the fourth and effectively lost the game for Dallas.

Injuries and depth concerns are obvious for Dallas at the moment. With Dwight Powell out for the year, Willie Cauley-Stein out for personal reasons, Jalen Brunson dealing with a serious shoulder injury, and Justin Jackson being abhorrent at basketball, the Mavericks are quite thin. They only played nine guys all evening if we include Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s quick five minutes.

And yet, the main players in the bench unit: J.J. Barea, Delon Wright, and Maxi Kleber, are seasoned players with talent. The guards in particular played simply awful. Barea might have played his worst basketball this season and Wright plays like this for huge stretches of the game:

The starters are going to have to hold the line while the bench gets healthier or Wright and company can figure something out because they’ve been rough at best the past two games.

Seth Curry is awesome

One hates to see such a breathtaking game by Curry wasted, yet that’s what happened. Without him, this game would’ve been an utter rout. 37 points on that efficient of shooting is something we’re unlikely to see again from a Dallas player in the next several seasons.

Here’s the postgame podcast, Mavs Moneyball After Dark. If you can’t see the embed below “More from Mavs Moneyball”, click here. And if you haven’t yet, subscribe by searching “Mavs Moneyball podcast” into your favorite podcast app.