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Dallas Mavericks Report Card: Games 18-27

The Mavericks have their backs against the wall.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Rundown:

The Mavericks are 4-6 in their last 10 games, and are now 14-13 on the season.

In the last report card, I wondered whether or not the Mavericks could pick up steam and create separation in the Western Conference. We quickly saw that they were not going to be able to do this, and have fallen from three games above .500 to just one, and from fourth place to seventh.

Dallas has been rocky recently, to say the least. This last stretch of games opened with two of Dallas’s most excruciating losses of the season at that point, first on a down-the-stretch loss to the Wizards and then in a thorough beating at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Mavericks responded to these back-to-back losses with a historic win over the Pelicans, where Dallas shot a franchise-best 68.7 percent from the field. This, in classic Mavericks fashion, was followed up by a 107-91 loss to the same Pelicans team just two days later, when the Mavericks shot 40.5 percent from the floor. A heartbreaking loss to Brooklyn (Dallas held an 11 point lead going into the fourth) was buried in a split with Memphis. The Mavericks then lost to Indiana and beat Oklahoma City and Charlotte to bolster their current two game win streak.

The Mavericks have been without Luka Doncic for the last two games because of “right ankle soreness”, an injury he sustained in the final minute against Denver a couple weeks ago and reaggravated against Indiana on Friday. Doncic will miss multiple games to let his ankle heal.

Dallas went under .500 for the first time since opening night following their loss to the Pacers, but quickly bounced back and are now riding a two game win streak into Wednesday night’s matchup with the Lakers.

Willie Cualey-Stein has missed nine consecutive games for an illness and personal reasons, and Sterling Brown has missed the last five for a foot injury.

Grade: C

The Mavericks have had a lot of issues recently. The biggest, and most excruciating one, has been their shooting woes. Over their last 10 games, they have shot 33 percent from three, which ranks 24th in the NBA over that time. If you remove the two games where the Mavericks scored 120 or more, this percentage plummets to 28.8 percent (85-of-295). To make matters worse, the quality of Dallas’ shots has been really good. Just about 50 percent of shots in the last 10 games outside of 10 feet have had at least four feet of separation from a defender, per Reggie Bullock, seemingly the Mavericks biggest offseason acquisition, has shot 28 percent from downtown this year, and has had six games of two or more three-point attempts without a make this season.

Another issue is their lack of an interior presence outside of Kristaps Porzingis, who really doesn’t match up well with physical big men. Jarret Allen, Domantas Sabonis and Daniel Gafford all had big double-doubles in wins over the Mavericks recently. In those games, a Mavericks power forward or center did not record more than 7 rebounds. Porzingis averaged 14.7 ponts and 4.7 rebounds in those losses, a mark that simply will not give Dallas a chance to win against relentless rebounders. An identity inside, specifically on the glass, has hurt Dallas just as much as shooting has.

There are not many good takeaways from this stretch, outside of some good Moses Brown minutes (9.5 points and six rebounds per game in the two game win streak). As we creep into December, the Mavericks are still not shooting well, don’t have a reliable second option, and Luka Doncic is nursing a recurring ankle injury.

Key stat: 2

This is the amount of consecutive games Josh Green has had with at least 15 minutes and one made three pointer.

This may not seem like an important statistic, but it is significant for two reasons. The first is that it is building his confidence. The only way for young players to develop is to actually play them, and that is exactly what Coach Jason Kidd has done recently. It is important to remember that Green is just 21 years old, with minimal game experience, and still has a good chance of becoming a solid rotation player.

In addition to building his confidence on the court, it has also helped build the confidence the coaching staff has in him. Green was brought in to be a 3-and-D wing, much like the oft-paralleled Desmond Bane is in Memphis. Green has not panned out in limited time thus far, but after making just four threes all of last year, we have now seen him connect from distance in back-to-back games. This does not even mention his activity and smart play on offense. The Mavericks wings have been disappointing this year, to say the least, so the slow development of the Mavericks 2020 first round pick has been good to see, and could make a huge impact later in the season.

One big question:

Can the Mavericks stay afloat without Luka Doncic in the lineup?

The Mavericks have a tough upcoming stretch. Games against the Lakers, Bucks, and Jazz headline the next week and a half leading up to Christmas, and without their star player to lead the way, the Mavericks are going to be looking for a miracle to make it out alive. In addition, they have a two game series against Minnesota, who stand two games behind Dallas in the standings. Kristaps Porzingis will need to step up, along with Jalen Brunson, and the Mavericks will need to start hitting shots if they don’t want to find themselves buried in the standings by the time Doncic returns.