The Mavericks eliminated their margin for error. Following a gut wrenching 109-108 loss at the hands of Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns, the Mavs find themselves in a precarious position that no one thought they would have been in before the season started. They have lost six straight games, and sit 8-13 on the year plummeting down the standings.
With Jalen Brunson, Dorian Finney-Smith, Josh Richardson, Dwight Powell and Maxi Kleber all missing time due to COVID-19 protocols, the Mavericks found themselves extremely shorthanded during a stretch of difficult games against some of the Western Conference’s best teams.
The Mavericks went from a decent shooting and excellent defensive team, to statistically the worst shooting team in the league at 32.8% from long range this season. They have one starter in their lineup that shoots over 30% from three in Tim Hardaway Jr., who didn’t start Monday against the Suns. Dallas’ second best player, Kristaps Porzingis, is getting bested on the defensive end while he fails to find rhythm from three-point land.
One of the biggest problems for the Mavericks during their six-game losing streak is the effort level. They were simply not playing hard. In the NBA, that’s going to get you blown out of the gym on a lot of nights, and it did vs Houston and Utah, twice. They played hard against Phoenix, but Booker and Chris Paul proved to be too much to handle as they accounted for 25 of the Suns’ 32 points in the fourth quarter.
The three games that have been close during the losing streak — two losses to the Suns and one to the Nuggets — saw the Mavs surrender leads in the fourth quarter where their offense went dormant once again. The Mavs were outscored 43-31 the rest of the game after going up 11 points half way through the third quarter. Those are the kinds of games that will determine whether a team makes or misses the playoffs and right now things are trending in the wrong direction for Rick Carlisle’s team.
Nine of the Mavericks’ next 11 games are at home, after having 11 of the first 16 on the road. The schedule was difficult and COVID-19 complications did them no favors. If the Mavericks want to salvage anything from this COVID-riddled season, they will have to make the best of this 11 game stretch which offers them plenty of opportunities to right their ship.
With no first-round pick in the upcoming draft, there is zero incentive for the Mavericks to tank either. They will either turn this around and get themselves back in the playoff conversation or it will be a lost season. Unfortunately, there is no in between.
The alarm bells are sounding. It is do or die time for the Mavericks.