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Five thoughts after Dallas falls on the road to a feisty Pacers team 106-93

Dallas failed to match the home team’s energy all night.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Indiana Pacers
Domantis Sabonis was a handful under the basket.
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks suffered another disappointing loss, falling 103 to 96 Friday night to the Indiana Pacers in Indiana. The Mavericks only occasionally matched the Pacer’s energy and the home team was able to pull away in the last five minutes of the game. Luka Doncic scored 27 points and Kristaps Porzingis had 22 in the losing effort while Caris Lavert had 26 and Domantis Sabonis dominated the paint with 24 points and ten rebounds to lead the Pacers.

The Mavericks started the game strong behind their two stars. Kristaps Porzingis was hitting 3’s, Luka Doncic was finishing at the basket and hitting free throws(!), and the team was scrambling on defense.

A couple of live ball turnovers by the Mavericks bench early in the 2nd quarter led to easy fast break points and got Indiana going from the field. The Pacers hit their first 9 shots in the period to push ahead of Dallas and led by as many as 9 in the frame.

Luka checked back into the game and helped right the ship by repeatedly bullying Pacers defenders in the post and passing to teammates for dunks. Dallas briefly took the lead back at the end of the period before Myles Turner’s rainbow 3 gave Indiana a two point lead 56-54 at the half.

The 3rd quarter followed a similar script. Indiana came out hot again to start and threatened to extend their lead but the Dallas bench closed strong to give the Mavs a lead until a Caris Lavert 3 pointer put Indiana up by 2 with a second left on the clock.

The beginning of the final quarter proved trouble for the Mavs again. The Mavericks desperately needed to match the Pacers energy who were pounding them on the offensive glass. Indiana pushed their lead up to 7 points before Kidd called a timeout and reset the teams’ focus. The Mavs answered with a run of their own to tie the game at 87.

The Mavericks went cold from the field for the rest of the game and Indiana pulled away for the comfortable final score.

Our observations on the game:

What is a shooting rhythm?

The Mavs aren’t sure. It’s been a while since they’ve had one. We’d like to stop talking about 3 point shooting right? KP hit the Mavs first 2 three point attempts early in the game and Dallas didn’t hit another 3 the rest of the half. They went 2 for 13 from deep in the first half. The Mavs shot 13.8% for the game.

Could Reggie Bullock carry over the rhythm he had in Wednesday’s victory over the Memphis Grizzlies? He went 0-2 in this one. Tim Hardaway Jr. went 1-9. Luka was 1-8. KP was 2 for 6.

The Mavericks were able to keep pace early by attacking the basket but when that wasn’t there late in the game, their jump shots couldn’t save them. Again.

The Starting Lineup

A Maverick starter not named Luka or Kristaps didn’t score a single point until 7:42 in the 3rd quarter when Dorian Finney-Smith hit a floater in the lane. That’s zero points from three starters in more than an half. The trio of Dorian, Dwight Powell, and Reggie Bullock went 2 for 6 for the game. Meanwhile the Pacers had four starters in double figures and the fifth starter Chris Duarte only fell 2 points shy.

This team clearly has lost confidence in their shot. And tonight it looked like Luka only had confidence in himself and KP. The Mavs simply need to get more from the rest of the starters one way or another.

The bench duo of Jalen Brunson and Tim Hardaway took up some of the slack by combining for 29 points as Dallas’ bench outscored Indiana’s bench 38 to 19 but it wasn’t enough tonight.

No Rick Reunion

A case of COVID-19 kept us from seeing Rick Carlisle (get well, soon!) roaming the sidelines for what would have been his first game coaching against his former team since his unexpected departure this summer. Whether you were fascinated by the matchup against an old friend, or if you’re a 7’ 3” Latvian who was going to try to drop 50 on him, you’re sorely disappointed at his absence. His new team played with great energy throughout the game.

Favorite play of the night

It seems like Dallas has to work SO hard to get good shots and they struggle to score in transition. That’s why the occasional easy transition bucket is such a breath of fresh air. As the Mavericks were making their run in the 2nd quarter, Luka rebounded an Indiana miss and immediately fired a chest pass the length of the court to a streaking Tim Hardaway Jr. who finished with the easy slam. Not only are plays like that an easy 2 points, but the energy it provides the bench and the crowd if you’re at home can’t be overstated. For one possession the Mavs looked fast and athletic!

Least favorite play of the night

With Dallas trailing by 3 with 5 minutes to go in the game Jalen Brunson drove to the lane, stopped, and found a well-covered Dorian who dribbled poorly, kind of towards the basket, nearly lost it, and passed it to a well-covered Powell who nearly lost it be was able to get it back to a well-covered Dorian again who immediately travelled. Indiana scored on their next three trips down the court.

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.