The Dallas Mavericks lost for the first time at home this season, falling to the Miami Heat 125-110. Luka Doncic led the Mavericks with 33 points but was limited to only three rebounds and five assists. Jalen Brunson also chipped in 25 points on a stellar 10-of-13 shooting night.
The Mavericks played hard and competently for the most part in this one but simply cannot match the talent level of the Heat, especially with the Heat at full strength while the Mavericks were missing Kristaps Porzingis and Maxi Kleber. There was some thought that Bam Adebayo would miss the game but he played and dominated the paint with 22 points and 13 rebounds.
The Mavericks got off to a rare good start and led 20-9 early before the Heat began chipping away at the lead. There was nothing in particular the Mavericks should have done differently, the Heat were just better.
Now for some thoughts.
Jalen Brunson should be a permanent starter
Brunson was absolutely marvelous tonight. Not only did he score but he chipped in with some solid defensive possessions. The Mavericks have made no secret of the fact that they would like to get the ball out of Luka’s hands. The problem is they have no other ball handlers good enough to do so in the starting lineup. Starting Brunson solves this problem and allows the Mavericks to play a more free flowing game.
Unfortunately this move does not come without consequences. The Heat bench outscored the Mavericks bench 46-21 in this game. If Brunson is going to start, the Mavericks must find a way to replace his production with the second unit.
The Mavericks big man rotation is putrid
There is an obvious caveat that the Mavericks two best big men did not play in this game. That being said Porzingis is less than reliable and Kleber is at his best with limited minutes. The remaining Mavericks big men are a mess. Benching Dwight Powell will not be the panacea that many seem to think it will be for all of the teams problems but he is simply not a starting big man in the NBA. He should be a 15 minute a game player versus other team’s benches.
Willie Cauley-Stein is not a good NBA player. His complete and utter lack of effort is appalling. He is blessed with tremendous physical gifts and at times those gifts help him to play solid defense but on balance his apathy hurts the team more. The team simply cannot invest the amount of money and roster space they have to the center position and get so little production. They should consider playing smaller with Luka or Dorian Finney-Smith as a big much more often even when everyone is healthy.
This was a step in the right direction
It is a bad sign when a team with championship aspirations can take moral victories from a 15 point loss, but that is exactly what should happen tonight. The Mavericks have not looked like they belonged on the floor with either the Hawks or the Nuggets in their two previous losses. They belonged on the floor with the Heat tonight, the Heat just made more shots.
Dorian Finney-Smith played his best game of the season (though this is damning with faint praise). Tim Hardaway Jr. and Reggie Bullock made a few shots. Luka was able to get to the free throw line and make them. All in all given the talent disparity available for the game tonight, this really was a step in the right direction. Unfortunately it also made clear, exactly how many more steps this team needs to take.
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