A major downside to covering a basketball team from your home instead of inside an arena is that you miss a ton of moments, both the good and the bad.
It’s hard to tell what kind of mood a team is in when all you can do is watch whatever the television broadcast will show you. You miss fun team-building hijinks in the locker room or on the flip side, some tense or moody moments. All we have is what we see on our TVs during the game and on our computers during Zoom interviews.
Well, it’s safe to say we know the mood for the Mavericks right now: frustrated. Dallas lost to Utah big time on Wednesday night to give the team its second three game losing streak in 10 days and it feels like everyone — the players, the coaches, the fans — is pissed off.
“I don’t know what to say,” Luka Doncic said after the loss. “There’s a lot of things wrong right now. We’ve got to pick it up and be way better than this.”
If the losses piling up weren’t enough, or the terse postgame quotes didn’t give us a clue, this moment in the third quarter certainly did.
One of the benefits of being unable to watch the Mavericks through a traditional TV provider is that instead of watching commercials, sometimes my feed shows what’s going on in the arena during a stoppage of play. To be fair, this particular moment between Luka Doncic and Josh Richardson isn’t unique, far from it. Moments like this happen across the league, it’s just if you’re not in the arena, you miss it. Still, it paints the picture of a basketball team that’s just not having too much fun right now.
“We really got beat tonight, they were the better team,” Kristaps Porzingis said. “We didn’t bring it to the level we know we’re capable of.”
Mind you, this effort from the Mavericks came 48 hours after Luka told the media the team had a private conversation about what needs to change. “We had a talk,” Luka said after the Denver loss. “Coach [Rick Carlisle] spoke but that will stay between us. That was it.”
Whatever was said, it didn’t work. It’s one thing for the Mavericks to lose, which they’ve done in 10 out of their 18 games this season, but it’s another to lose like this. Even if it felt slightly predetermined considering the laundry list of bad luck the Mavericks have been dealt, bad body language and weird effort plagued this Jazz loss.
For example, Rudy Gobert killed the Mavericks passive defense all night in the pick and roll. In the first half alone, Gobert had 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting, a lot of them wide open dunks and alley-oops. You’d think coming out of the locker room, the Mavericks would at least make an effort to take that part of the Jazz game away. Even if it meant getting burned from deep, maybe they wouldn’t get clowned in the paint.
That didn’t happen.
What you’re seeing is the Mavericks weak drop coverage in action yet again, as Porzingis is hanging out in no man’s land, bothering neither the pick and roll ball handler or the roller. As a fun bonus, Luka throws up his hands in a “what the hell are we doing guys” sorta way but never takes one step into the paint. Gobert scored a layup on this possession.
Things will get better, or they at least should. As I’ve written on the site earlier this month, the Mavericks are still a mystery box. Basically half the major rotation tested positive for COVID-19. Their best rim runner is coming back from a career-altering injury. Their second best player is working his way back from another knee surgery. The starting lineup the Mavericks rolled out against the Jazz was the first time that lineup played any minutes this season. Get everyone healthy, get some meaningful minutes together and things should improve.
Better days are ahead for the Mavericks. That doesn’t mean what we’re watching isn’t any less frustrating in the moment. Maybe we just need someone to pick the towel off our heads and shake the cobwebs loose for the time being.