The Dallas Mavericks were once again competitive with the Phoenix Suns before ultimately falling 112-104. Luka Doncic once again sat out with ankle and knee sprains though he appeared to be moving quite well in pregame warm ups. Maxi Kleber sat out with an oblique strain and the remaining Mavericks were not talented enough to match up with the Suns.
The Mavericks had a five point lead of 84-79 after three quarters. The Suns proceeded to go on a 24-6 run during the first 7:36 of the fourth quarter to essentially seal the game. The Mavericks expended a ton of energy defensively with an extremely aggressive trapping scheme that produced seven Suns turnovers.
Here are some thoughts.
The Mavericks need to work on conditioning
Luka’s conditioning has been mentioned a ton and he needs to be in better shape. But he isn’t the only one. The trapping defense the Mavericks played in the third quarter clearly took a lot out of several players legs. Dorian Finney-Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr and Dwight Powell are in extremely good shape. Everyone else could be in better shape.
Playing any sport while exhausted negatively effects performance, especially late game performance. That trapping defense is not a long term option against good NBA teams because good ball handlers will beat it. The players still need to be in good enough shape for it to be a short term option.
Jalen Brunson is very good, but he is not Luka
One of the most important developments early in the season has been the play of Brunson. He has brutalized bench units and he has been able to puncture starting units as well when paired with Luka. Without Luka, he became the focus of the defense and his performance suffered.
He was still solid enough, he had 18 points, nine rebounds and nine assists Wednesday. He had 18 more points, four rebounds and 10 assists tonight. He is better than some starting point guards in the NBA but it is clear that he is not a STAR in his own right.
Dorian Finney-Smith has found his jumper
Over his first eight games, Finney-Smith was 8 of 40 from three point range. Over the last seven games including tonight he is 17/33. The first 8 games caused quite a bit of concern as the Mavericks desperately need shooting around Luka and Porzingis. It has been lost amidst some other developments but Finney-Smith regaining his jumper is a huge development.
Overall, it is hard to be too upset. The Mavericks played one of the best teams in basketball twice on their court. They did so without all everything superstar, Luka Doncic and glue guy Maxi Kleber. Two blowouts would not have been shocking, but they kept both games close enough for the losses to feel frustrating. There are no moral victories but it is time for Mavericks to be goldfish and move on to the next one, hopefully at full strength.
Here’s our latest 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.