The Mavericks defense is on some kind of stretch right now. Hovering around the mid to late teens for most of this season, a dramatic improvement over the last two to four weeks shot Dallas to seventh in defense, according to stats site Cleaning the Glass.
For the past two weeks, the Mavericks have been the best defense in the league. While the Mavericks have feasted on weak offensive teams like Oklahoma City and Houston, the wins against the Warriors and Bulls were wildly impressive.
You can’t judge an entire improvement on one side of the ball with one play, but this defensive possession against the Bulls and likely All-Star guard Zach LaVine felt representative of what the Mavericks are doing.
This is a much better use for Dwight Powell on the defensive end then what the Mavericks did previously, which was allow a runway to the basket for players to score over and through Powell.
If you’ve watched a number of Mavericks games over the last two years, you’ll know that walling off the rim to a deadly scorer while also contesting his midrange step-back jumper is just something the Mavericks did not do all that often. Dallas played the percentages, much like they’re doing this season, except now instead of seemingly escorting players to the spots the Mavericks wanted them to shoot from, they’re staying attached and contesting more often than not.
The Bulls took 21 midrange shots Sunday night, making only seven. A lot of them looked like the LaVine possession, a pick and roll going nowhere, the offensive player settling for a long two but a Mavericks defender within arm’s reach to cloud the airspace.
Dallas has held five of its six opponents during this win streak to under 100 points. Some three point shot variance will likely catch up to them soon, but even then, the Mavericks are at least doing things different on the defensive end and playing a much more aggressive scheme than before.
Credit to the entire roster for buying in, credit Jason Kidd and the Mavericks coaching staff for adapting a scheme that made better use of the talent at hand. Also a special credit specifically to Dorian Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber, who have been dynamite during this recent stretch. When those two are on the floor, according to Cleaning the Glass, the Mavericks allow a 50.4 effective field goal percentage and a 15.3 percent free throw rate. To put that into context, Golden State allows the lowest effective field goal percentage on the season at 49.9 percent and the Los Angeles Clippers allow the lowest free throw rate this season at 14.7 percent.
The next test for the Mavericks defense will be when Luka Doncic, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Kristaps Porzingis are all healthy and playing together. When those three are on the floor, the Mavericks defense gives up 113.5 points per 100 possessions, according to Cleaning the Glass. If the Mavericks can still play good defense when Porzingis returns from protocols and that trio is on the floor, the Mavericks truly may have a great and sustainable defense on their hands.