The Dallas Mavericks fell at home Monday night to the Cleveland Cavaliers, getting ran off the floor 114-96. Jarrett Allen pummeled the Mavericks, scoring 28 and grabbing 14. Luka Doncic had a triple double in defeat, with 25 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists.
Things began fast and furious with the Jarrett Allen-Luka Doncic duel we’d all been expecting (what). With Doncic step backs and Allen dunks, neither team had any idea of how to defend the other team. Then, the sequence of the season happened for Kristaps Porzingis:
The intense pace continued for the remainder of the frame, with neither team managing to a take much of a lead until late in the frame when the Cavaliers pushed ahead by seven in the final seconds on a Darius Garland bucket. The Mavericks found themselves down 30-23 after one quarter.
Porzingis helped lead the charge to start the second quarter, pulling back to within two points almost immediately. But a bad Reggie Bullock turnover led to a Lauri Markkanen three. That continued what would become a 9-0 Cavalier run that lasted nearly three minutes before a Doncic lay up stemmed the tide. Cleveland maintained that nine point lead, but couldn’t extend it either, missing multiple bunnies. A frustrated Luka buried his fourth three of the game to cut the lead to 44-38 with about three minutes left in the period. The Mavericks continued their season long streak of missing every open shot imaginable (non-Luka Mavericks hit just 1-of-16 threes in the half) and Dallas found themselves behind still after 24 minutes, 52-41.
Dallas started the third taking advantage of more boneheaded Cleveland turnovers, scoring twice in the paint. Yet Dallas couldn’t seem to actually make any stops and the Cavaliers re-established their double digit lead. Doncic hit back-to-back threes to pull Dallas within seven. Doncic had a chance to close the lead to five but couldn’t hit a pair of free throws for the second time in the game. Then the Mavericks just got stuck in the mud, again, offensively and Cleveland poured it on, leading by as many as 24. Doncic tried to will the Mavericks back into it, but Dallas had no answers. Porzingis injured his ankle on the last play of the quarter and the Mavericks found themselves down 87-65.
Things stayed embarrassing for Dallas in the fourth, with more dunks from Cleveland, bad defense from the Mavericks, and very little offense from the guys in blue. Dallas gave up by the eight minute mark, playing the back of the bench. Everyone just tried to get out of the game without any injuries, and the Mavericks fell to the Cavaliers, 114-96
Now, some thoughts
The Mavericks lack joy
I’ve probably written about this before, but there’s a scene in The Replacements where they talk about the concept of quicksand for professional athletes. If you’ve never seen it, give it a watch. The basic idea is that for certain levels of professionals, mainly guys on the fringes, when things go back, they often go so bad that it’s impossible to find a way out.
For a significant portion of the Maverick roster, it feels as if the team is stuck in quicksand in one way or another. These last seven games were always going to be tough and they came out of the stretch 2-5, with Luka missing three games, Jalen Brunson missing time, and then Porzingis getting hurt at the very end. The rest of the roster, theoretically poised to step up, simply hasn’t, or at least hasn’t enough to make a difference.
The Mavericks record isn’t bad, but these last two losses really leave a bad taste.
The shooters can’t shoot
Part of the joy stems from the fact that no one can shoot anymore. It’s 19 games in and so many of these actually good Dallas shooters are just terrible. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Reggie Bullock went 3-of-16 for six points between the two of them. Non-Luka Mavericks finished the game 5-of-28 from three.
I don’t know what to say about it anymore. There’s no real criticism happening here or analysis. I’ve seen the same data as you all, about how good the quality of looks are. It doesn’t matter! It’s maddening. And it’s playing a huge part in how joyless the Mavericks look. Their offense fuels their defense and when they don’t score, everything else seems to go out the window.
The Dallas bigs are too limited
Again, this is something we know, but when going against actually good big men in Allen and Mobley it stands out. As much as the Mavericks have squeezed out of their big man rotation over the last two plus seasons, the book is more or less written on how to attack them. Past Kristaps Porzingis, each Dallas big is so limited in a really obvious way (including Maxi Kleber, who is quite good and should absolutely play the most minutes out of all the options). It’s just such a frustrating shame that the front office (owner) seems to think this is good enough.
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.