The Dallas Mavericks fell on the road to the Atlanta Hawks Thursday night, losing 113-87. Trae Young led a balanced Hawks attack, scoring 19 and dishing out 14 assists. Luka Doncic scored 18 to lead an ugly offensive effort from the Mavericks in defeat.
The 2021-22 season kicked off for the Dallas Mavericks with Tim Hardaway Jr. connecting on a three on a kick out. Dallas jumped out to an early 10-4 lead on the Hawks, through solid defense leading to break opportunities and a drive-and-kick offense. But the Mavericks got sloppy on the break, turning it over a few times which allowed Atlanta to work themselves back into the game. The Mavericks went cold for a significant stretch of the frame, allowing the Hawks to take the lead. Luka Doncic connected on a stepback three to break the seal. Dallas and Atlanta then traded misses for the rest of the quarter and Atlanta took a 22-20 into the second quarter.
Slow offense continued for both teams in the second, with the Mavericks struggling to connect on most attempts and the Hawks managing to hit few more and pulling ahead to a a double digit lead. The Mavericks finally passed the 30% shooting mark on a Maxi Kleber three which pulled Dallas within five points. But sloppy offense with poor spacing for Dallas continued; the Hawks pushed on Maverick misses and a Trey Young three and Clint Capela oop forced a coach Jason Kidd timeout. Following a Jalen Brunson three and a Hardaway two, Trae Young and Luka Doncic exchanged made free throws following shot attempts. Brunson later found Dwight Powell for an and-one off a drive and alley-oop, but the Mavericks struggled to string together stops and rebounds. Dallas found themselves trailing 51-44 at the half.
Things went sideways quickly to start the second half, with the odd insistence on running a fair amount of offense through Dorian Finney-Smith and sloppy play on breaks and drives to the basket. Dallas found themselves down 15 by the seven minute mark, resulting in a timeout. After Porzingis picked up his third foul, the lane opened even more for the Hawks with Dwight Powell providing little resistance. Brunson connected on a pair of threes after the Hawks built their lead up to 21, but Atlanta answered right back with a three of their own. Luka Doncic tried to take over some, taking more attempts in the third than he took in the first half, but the Mavericks couldn’t stop the Hawks from scoring. The Mavericks found themselves down 86-64 after 36 minutes of basketball.
It did not get better for the Mavericks in the fourth as Atlanta poured it on throughout the fourth quarter. Kidd finally cleared his bench with around five minutes left, but the Hawks were not done dealing damage, leading by as many as 30 points.
Now, some thoughts:
The length of the Atlanta Hawks caused Dallas real issues
I’m doing my best not to lead the recap with “what in the heck was that offense?!” because there’s more to it than that and we need more tape before coming to conclusions. Sometimes teams can’t hit shots, which Dallas did not.
But the main reason they didn’t hit many shots was the absurd length of the Hawks defense. Not unlike the Clippers last year (in some ways), Atlanta had huge guys in the lane to prevent rim attempts. This left Dallas to take threes and some forced midrange attempts and they didn’t hit many at all. This data point from midway through the third speaks volumes to both the ugly offense of Dallas but also stellar defense from Atlanta:
Last season, the Mavericks averaged 25.8 shots per game that weren’t at the rim or from 3 (so, non-restricted area paint shots or midrange shots).— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) October 22, 2021
Through 2.5 quarters, they’ve already taken 22 of those shots. They’ve made four of them. This is an abysmal watch.
The Dallas defensive effort started out great and fell apart
This plays off of the first point, but the opening minutes of the game Dallas was everywhere. Hands in passing lanes, flocking to loose balls, and pushing the tempo after misses. But once the shots didn’t go with regularity, the rotations broke down, team rebounding fell apart, and guys were out of position a lot.
If there’s specific positives to take away, Kristaps Porzingis exhibited the same excellent mobility we saw in the pre-season and Luka Doncic guarded with more vigour than I can remember seeing.
Work on the fast breaks
This feels reactive, but at the moment I’m recalling a lot of first quarter points left on the table as a variety of Mavericks blew fast breaks or pushes off of Hawks misses.
One of the revelatory things this summer, for me at least, was watching Luka Doncic and the Slovenian national team and how they pushed and scored in transition. Sometimes, guys just have bad games, so we can hope for Finney-Smith and Tim Hardaway to score off these looks where they have the advantage.
Jalen Brunson looks good
It’s been a predominantly negative recap, but that’s to be expected when a team gets blown out on opening night.
So it’s worth noting a strong positive was the play of Jalen Brunson, who looked like the player we last saw performing well at the end of the 2020-21 season before the playoffs. He scored the ball well, made some nice passes leading to baskets, played hard defense, and generally looked like the winning player he is.
Here’s our lastest episode of Mavs Moneyball After Dark. If you’re unable to see the embed below, click here to be taken to the podcast directly. Or go to your favorite podcast app and search Mavs Moneyball Podcast.