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3 things we learned from the Dallas Mavericks loss to the Brooklyn Nets 102-99

The Mavericks lost in familiar ways.

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks lost to the Brooklyn Nets 102-99 on Tuesday night in Dallas. The Mavericks came out aggressive early and controlled the first half, going into halftime with a 12 point lead. In fact, they controlled the game most of the way.

But they went cold in the fourth quarter, and the Nets took the lead with a little more than six minutes left in the game. Dallas wouldn’t quit, though, and kept battling. The lead seesawed back and forth for the rest of the game. In the end, Dallas couldn’t make enough plays to steal a game from the best team in the Eastern conference, though.

Kristaps Porzingis got the Mavericks within two with a couple free throws with a little more than a minute left. But Durant iced the game with a 14 foot jumper, and despite two desperate 3-pointers to tie the game late, the Mavericks came away empty.

Luka Doncic led all scorers with 28 points and dished out nine assists. Kevin Durant led the Nets with 24 points and got support from his fellow superstar James Harden, who had 23 points and 12 assists.

Here are three things from the game:

The best way for Dallas to utilize Porzingis is to keep him on the move

Porzingis was electric in the first half, scoring 14 points and dishing out five assists. He also grabbed six rebounds. He finished with 17 points. Porzingis was moving early on, especially toward the basket. When he gets rolling downhill to the rim it’s almost impossible for defenses to stop him.

Defenses shade close to Porzingis on the perimeter, and when he sets screens. When the Mavericks have good spacing, this opens up huge cutting lanes for Porzingis, and when he utilizes them, he gets easy baskets, usually with monster dunks. But too often, the Mavericks go away from this as the game progresses.

Here’s his shot plot for the first half:

Here’s the second half:

Notice the difference? Porzingis became allergic to the rim in the third and fourth quarters. The result was an anemic three points in the second half.

Porzingis made four baskets in the restricted area, three of them on cuts to the basket (the fourth was a tip dunk). In the second half, he had zero. He did get two free throws on a foul in the restricted area late in the fourth, however. Instead, he settled for outside shots, most of them in the midrange. Porzingis can’t settle and has to keep moving. When he’s standing still, whether it’s spotting up for a 3-pointer or backing down in the mid-post, it’s a win for the opposing defense.

Turnovers were key

Despite both teams having similar shooting numbers in the first half (both shot 25% on 3-pointers, the Mavericks shot 50% from the field, the Nets 51%), Dallas took a 12 point lead into halftime. Why? They had nine more shots than Brooklyn, due to being plus-seven on turnovers. The Mavericks had only one giveaway in the first half, taking excellent care of the ball.

Brooklyn cleaned that up in the second half, only turning the ball over four more times, while Dallas lost the ball three times. Without the edge in turnovers, the Mavericks lost the lead and couldn’t shoot their way out of it. The Nets hit more 3’s, shooting 35% from deep, and the Mavericks’ shooting cratered, going 13% on 3-pointers. Once the Nets stopped being sloppy with the ball, the Mavericks were doomed.

The Mavericks can’t keep hoping for a positive regression on their outside shooting

It’s game 23. The Mavericks’ role players aren’t going to start shooting better. They may go on some mini-streaks here and there, but this is the team they are. Perhaps some of these undrafted free agents were outperforming their shooting profile for a year or two and now they’re settling down into what they really are.

Tim Hardaway Jr., Reggie Bullock, Maxi Kleber, and Frank Ntilikina combined to make as many 3-pointers as you and I did. 0-of-18 from behind the arc. That is roughly 40% of the rotation making ZERO shots from deep. Porzingis, a notoriously overrated 3-pointer shooter, went 1-of-5. Luka went 3-of-11.

The only Maverick who shot decently from three was Dorian Finney-Smith, who was 4-of-9, and he missed two wide open corner threes in the fourth quarter. If the Mavericks don’t make changes, we’ll see this type of performance frequently, along with the games where the role players actually hit their shots, resulting in a win.

And that is a formula to a .500 record, as we’ve seen so far. Well, now one game under .500.

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.