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3 thoughts from a Dallas Mavericks loss to the Chicago Bulls, 117-107

Yet another loss to a potential playoff team.

Dallas Mavericks v Chicago Bulls Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

The Dallas Mavericks lost to the Chicago Bulls in Chicago on Wednesday night, 117-107. The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for Dallas. Kristaps Porzingis led the Mavericks in scoring with 22 points. Zach LaVine led all scorers with 23 points.

The Mavericks initially struggled out the gates, as usual, but Jalen Brunson entered the game midway through the first. The Chicago bench unit wasn’t able to match the Mavericks’ reserves, and Dallas went on a 24-8 run to close the quarter, leading 33-32.

The Bulls didn’t roll over, though. Hot shooting by LaVine and Lonzo Ball kept the Mavericks from building a lead. LaVine and Ball combined for 7-of-8 3-point shooting in the first half. The Mavericks’ shooters, meanwhile, couldn’t buy a bucket from deep in the first half. Reggie Bullock and Tim Hardaway Jr. combined to go 1-of-7 from behind the arc. The teams went back and forth, with the Mavericks going ahead by seven early, only to fall behind by as many as eight late in the second quarter, and went into the half down seven.

Both teams came out from halftime on fire, combining for 6-of-6 on 3-pointers to start the half. Ball continued to scorch the Mavericks from deep. The Mavericks struggled to get stops and couldn’t find any rhythm on offense. Hardaway kept them in the game with a couple 3-pointers, but Doncic couldn’t get anything going. Dallas closed to within four with 4:28 left in the third quarter, but then the Bulls went on a 15-4 run to close the quarter. They went into the fourth with a 95-80 lead.

The Mavericks really didn’t threaten the Bulls in the final quarter. Chicago stretched its lead to 17, and my satellite went out due to a raging thunderstorm with a couple minutes left. Nothing was missed. Hardaway kept the score from being an outright rout, hitting four 3-pointers in the second half.

Luka needs to go on a run of consistent, high-level basketball.

Sure, Luka hit the game winner against Boston on Saturday night. He’s had a couple of 33 point games. He’s averaging 24.9/8/6.7 so far, which is hardly bad. But every game feels like a slog for him, especially to start the game. Tonight, he was minus-18 in 16 first half minutes. It’s hard to argue with the results, but Luka is so talented, it feels like he’s leaving something on the table every game this season. For the Mavericks to be anything besides first round fodder, he needs to get into elite form, and soon.

Dorian Finney-Smith’s shooting is at a crisis point.

Finney-Smith was 1-for-5 from deep against Chicago. He’s shooting 26% on 3-pointers this season, and defenses are completely ignoring him when he spots up. It’s clogging up the lane and creating problems for Luka on drives. The problem is there’s really no substitute for him on the roster. Bullock could take his spot in the starting lineup, but so far Jason Kidd seems reluctant to play Bullock big minutes. Plus, it’s not like Bullock is scorching the net either and he went 0-for-4 on threes against the Bulls. The other issue is Finney-Smith is the team’s best offensive rebounder. But perhaps a move to the bench would spark Finney-Smith’s shooting.

Porzingis needs to carry this team sometimes.

There’s been plenty of talk of Luka’s poor play so far this year, but it’s important to remember that Porzingis is the highest paid player on the team, but rarely even the second best player on the floor. It’s not asking too much from a player with a max contract to explode for 35 points on a night with Doncic is struggling. Too often Porzingis gets away with praise for scoring 21 points and grabbing eight rebounds. It’s time for him to step up and carry the scoring load while Luka gets through whatever slump he’s in right now.

But so far he’s done the opposite, shooting 25% on 3-pointers and 34% from the field overall. The only bright side is Porzingis’ free throws are up this year, to four per game, after a steady decline for the past three years. For the Mavericks to be real threat in the playoffs, Porzingis is going to have to play like one of the 30 best players in the league. So far that hasn’t happened.

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.