The Mavericks seemed to either be riding high from their win against the Jazz or looking forward to their matchup against the Bucks, because the team came out flat spotting the Rockets a 10 point lead in the first quarter before closing the gap to a one-point Houston lead.
Dallas was worse in the second quarter, shooting 27 percent from the field as the Rockets took advantage of a season-low first-half scoring output by the Mavericks to take a 47-42 lead into the break. The third quarter was much of the same as the Rockets pushed the lead to as many as 13 points even though the Mavericks shot a little better from the field.
With the score sitting at 75-64 to start the fourth, the Mavericks clawed their way back cutting the lead to as little as one point with 5:49 remaining and then even tied the game at 89 all on a Luka Doncic layup. But Houston responded by scoring off an offensive rebound, hitting a jumper after a stop, and connecting on and and-one to put the game quickly out of reach with a 9-0 run in total. John Wall led the way with 31 points, and Christian Wood and Kelly Olynyk beat up on the Mavericks front court combining for 32 points and 28 rebounds.
Dallas will have to quickly regroup before facing the Milwaukee Bucks Thursday night, but first, here are some observations:
Luka Doncic simply wasn’t good
Doncic finished with 23 points, nine rebounds and five assists, but shot a putrid 9-of-26 from the field (1-of-9 from three) and coughed the ball up five times. He looked lifeless and flat against the NBA’s worst team, and it probably wasn’t a coincidence. Late in the fourth after the Rockets responded with a run to answer the Mavericks, Doncic was caught on the broadcast camera slamming a water bottle to the ground. He responded on the court by missing a layup.
He struggled to get by anybody and couldn’t seem to serve up good looks for his teammates down the stretch. The Mavericks on-court energy typically reflects Doncic’s, and tonight conveyed that. They needed the Luka who poured 31 on the Jazz. The team didn’t get that.
Nicolo Melli, Josh Richardson and (kind of) Dorian Finney-Smith went missing
After tremendous games against the Jazz, the non-Luka and Kristaps starters were nowhere to be found against the Rockets. Through three quarters the trio combined for three points (thanks Dorian) which is simply unacceptable. Finney-Smith made a couple of big threes to keep Dallas close late, but Richardson and Melli combined to go 0-of-12, scoring three points via free throws. Teams just can’t win lacking that much output from players playing that many minutes.
Kristaps Porzingis returned, and I’m not sure what to make of it
On one hand his box score stats look fine as he scored 23 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. On the other hand he was invisible in the fourth quarter, and the Mavericks whooped the best team in the league without him and lost to the worst team in the league with him.
Porzingis attempted as many shots in the fourth quarter as I did, though the blame can’t be placed entirely on him. When Doncic did hit him on a cut through traffic, he brought the ball down and had it slapped out of his hands. Other than that instance, Porzingis didn’t get a look served up for him.
Is this an indictment of Porzingis? I’m not sure I’ll go that far. The whole team lacked any type of fire, but overall it was a disheartening performance from the team with Porzingis back in the fold.