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Grading the Mavericks: Digging holes and losing games

The Mavericks need to figure out how to put an entire game together

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Milwaukee Bucks Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

The Mavericks have their first winless week finally, with losses to the Celtics, Raptors, and Bucks. Maxi Kleber made his return to the lineup, and Reggie Bullock sat out against Milwaukee for rest.

Team grade: F

After a lack-luster performance last week, the Mavericks period of dreck continued into this one. Another loss to a shorthanded team was added to the books, and this was the most painful iteration yet. The Mavericks trailed Toronto by three, Luka Doncic was double teamed, and then this happened:

Maxi Kleber should not be in the game in these situations for this exact reason. He cannot make decisions in open space, or even dribble with purpose, and missed Finney-Smith in the corner, as well as passed up an opportunity for a quick attack. Toronto had doubled Doncic all game, what did the coaches think would happen? Another coaching blunder led to another embarrassing loss.

The other two games were against the two best teams in the league. Both had the same story: they got punched in the mouth in the first half, and fought back in the second. Neither fight was enough to come all the way back, but the Mavericks did not quit. They found a lineup that worked against the Bucks, when they opened the third quarter with Christian Wood instead of Dwight Powell. A 15-8 run to begin the second half brought Dallas back into the game, until a lack of flow on offense and poor three point defense ultimately sunk them. The Mavericks should not expect to win those games, but it just felt like their head was not in it for too long. More heart and a concerted effort to play the right guys must be expected.

There is no doubt that the Mavericks are in a hole right now. Jason Kidd’s stubbornness to not start Christian Wood has doomed them frequently, and to make matters worse the players that Kidd is starting have not done much to help Doncic besides Spencer Dinwiddie. Dallas built some momentum in their rotation during the third quarter against Milwaukee, and hopefully they can use that to propel them back to the win column.

Straight A’s: Spencer Dinwiddie

Dinwiddie has been exactly what the Mavericks need him to be this season. An excellent three point shooter, a strong driver, and a guy who can create outside of Doncic. He has kept the offense afloat when Doncic is on the bench, but he has been really good when Doncic has been on the floor with him. The Mavericks do not get much scoring from their starters, but being able to rely on Dinwiddie for 15-20 a night is one bright spot for Dallas.

Failing miserably: Mavericks shooters

The Mavericks team is built to live and die by the three. So much of their offense is penetrate and kick, and when shooters are not hitting shots, Dallas is going to look terrible. Reggie Bullock shot 2-of-10 combined against the Celtics and Raptors, and is now shooting 30 percent on the year. Tim Hardaway Jr. shot 5-of-20 this week and has only made two of his last 19 threes.

Bullock and Hardaway are key pieces for Dallas, because of volume and their role in the offense, and when they’re shooting 22 times and making five of those shots, the Mavericks get put way behind the 8-ball. Dallas needs their shooters to knock down shots or they simply will not win.

Extra credit: Jaden Hardy

Unlike most of Dallas’ NBA players, Hardy has been playing superbly in the G-League. He has averaged 29 points and almost four assists on 55 percent shooting in nine games thus far. He has shown off his quickness and a vastly improved jump shot among vast offensive repertuar, but still turns the ball over more than he creates assists, part of why he has not seen minutes with the Mavericks (along with his defense). He’s been very good with the Legends, and it will be fun to watch him keep balling out until he gets the call to come up to the big leagues.