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3 notes as Dallas drops a head scratcher to Sacramento, 113-106

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The most confounding loss of the season, taking the crown from the previous confounding loss to the Kings last week.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Sacramento Kings Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas did well to win two huge games against the Lakers, but just when you think it’s safe to exhale, sitting alone in the sixth spot, Dallas goes into Sacramento and drops a game to a D’Aaron Fox-less Kings team playing on the second night of a back to back (and who lost big contributor Harrison Barnes midway though the game to an abductor injury), losing 113-106 Monday night.

Dallas played most of the night with a malaise not encouraging for a team in the middle of a stretch of five games in seven nights. Not to mention, they’ll be chasing Steph Curry around the floor Tuesday night as part of their most recent back to back.

Luka Doncic lead the team in scoring with 24 points, but it wasn’t his most efficient night as he went just 8-of-20 from the floor. For a brief shining moment, it seemed like we may be getting a Bubble Burke game as Trey Burke kept Dallas connected when the offense was looking its worst. He put up a solid 19 bench points, but it wasn’t enough for the win. For the Kings, Richaun Homes carried much of the scoring inside with 24 points, and the odds-on favorite for rookie of the year, Tyrese Haliburton, put the Kings on his back in the fourth quarter and made sure Sacramento got across the finish line with the dub. He finished with 14 points.

Terrible, horrible starts

The Mavericks this season are an insane 20-0 when leading after the first quarter. The issue, though, is that as soon as people picked up on this trend and started talking about it, the team seems to have sworn off leading after the first quarter ever again. This one against Sacramento was a particularly big stinker. Dallas put up a measly 17 points to Sacramento’s 31. They started the game down 20-3, which is bad.

Sure, Dallas fought back and even managed to take the lead at multiple points during the game, but imagine if all that energy spent fighting to even make the game somewhat competitive could be used burying teams under double digit leads. What’s frustrating about this game was Dallas is the team who — theoretically — was the fresher or the two with the Kings losing on Sunday night to Golden State. Not only did the Kings open the game stronger, they never lost their wind, and ended up out-playing Dallas in the fourth quarter as well. Not a lot of positives to take away from that.

Opportunities squandered

There were a couple areas of the game where Dallas seemingly outdid the Kings, but didn’t actually have the results to show for it.

In a game where the refs were fairly restrained with the foul calls, Dallas earned themselves 14 foul shots to Sacramentos 16 (a bit inflated due to end of game fouls, though). However, while the Kings hit 16 of their 18 freebies, Dallas managed only a paltry 57% from the stripe. A horrible 8-of-14. An eight point swing in a six point loss. On top of that, Dallas didn’t take advantage of all the work they put in on the boards. The effort was there: they grabbed 14 offensive boards to Sacramento’s 11, but despite winning the rebounding battle, they lost where it counted. The King’s managed to turn their boards into 16 second chance points while Dallas converted their into only 11. Another five point deficit.

I’m sure it’s as frustrating to the players as it is for the fans to put in the work get earn a win, but come up short when the points are counted up.

Reboot Tim Hardaway Jr.

With a number of Mavericks in and out of the lineup as of late, Tim Hardaway Jr. has been seeing spot minutes as a starter. Last season, when he was moved from the bench to the starting five, it was like a complete metamorphosis. Suddenly, he was one of the hottest shooters in the league. His numbers as a starter dwarfed what he’d been doing in his bench role. Well, anyone hoping for a similar result this year is likely disappointed.

Starter or not, THJ has simply been in a rut, shooting just 27% from three over the last 10 games. There was some hope that he’d shake it off tonight after he came out and hit a game-tying three at the start of the third quarter, but it was fool’s gold. THJ still went just 3-of-12 from distance and 8-of-20 from the floor.

There’s likely no magic fix for this — Hardaway is just a streaky shooter on a streaky team. The silver lining here being that, for as quickly as he went cold, he could just a easily heat up again. With any luck, that turnaround will coincide with the start of the playoffs. Has anyone tried turning Hardaway off and then back on again?

BONUS: Josh Green played pretty okay

Josh Green-heads rejoice! In an effort to not make this a complete bummer of a recap, I’ll note here that with the rotation in shambles, Josh Green got some of his most extended minutes of the season. Perhaps feeling safe in the knowledge that a single mistake wouldn’t get him sent to the shadow realm, he did make some pretty good plays. (And still a couple mistakes, but hey! He got the chance to play thorough them!)

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