The Dallas Mavericks fell to the Washington Wizards 135-103 Friday night in Washington, D.C. It was the Mavericks’ third game in four nights, so some fatigue was to be expected. But the fact that they barely put up a fight in this game is somewhat concerning.
The Wizards raced to an early lead off incredible shooting, scoring 41 points in the first quarter alone. Washington couldn’t miss, hitting 66% of their three-pointers in the first quarter. The Mavericks kept pace offensively, scoring 30, but their defense couldn’t get stops. They buckled down a bit in the second quarter, only allowing 26 points, but then couldn’t get their own offense going. They went into the half down 67-53.
Dallas came out with even less energy after halftime, and Washington pushed the lead to 26. But then the Mavericks figured out a way to get some stops and close to within 13 on the heels of a 16-3 run late in the quarter, and went into the fourth quarter down 16. Dallas never really made a run in the fourth, though, and the Wizards piled on points until the blowout was in full effect. Coach Jason Kidd even got tossed, his first ejection with the Mavericks.
Luka Doncic led the Mavericks in scoring with 36 points and dished out six assists. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led the Wizards with 35 points. Kristaps Porzingis scored 24 in his first game against his former team.
Here are three things from the game:
The Mavericks’ defense is steadily slipping
When Dallas was playing out of its mind in February and early March, the defense was the talk of the NBA. In the last few weeks, however, it’s slipping. Tonight, the Mavericks gave up 135 points and allowed the Wizards to shoot 54 percent from the field and 51 percent from deep. They allowed the Cleveland Cavaliers to shoot 50 percent from the field and 44 percent from three on Wednesday. They allowed opponents to score at least 110 points in seven of their last ten games. Their defensive rating in the last two weeks is 115.1 per NBA.com, 19th in the league in that span.
The Mavericks were playing above their talent defensively in February, but they’re also not as bad as this recent stretch. Some of it is just a regression to the mean on opponents’ three-point shooting. But some of it can be attributed to an exhausting scheme for the bigs and just a general malaise for the rest of the team. Without a dominant rim protector, Maxi Kleber and Dwight Powell have to do a lot on defense, and the rest of the team has to do a lot of switching. Over months, that can wear you out. The Mavericks should hope that the short time off between the regular season and the start of the playoffs, as well as multiple days between playoff games, will give their roster the breather it obviously needs.
The Mavericks didn’t attack the rim enough
Dallas finished the game with only six attempts in the restricted area, not nearly enough. They bombed away from above the break and missed most of those shots, going 5-of-26. Oddly enough, they shot well from the corners (6-of-12) and the midrange (8-of-16). But the lack of attacking the rim, and the long three-point shots falling short are just another example that this team is exhausted. It happens, but on the other hand, this team is fighting for the third seed, which would mean avoiding the Phoenix Suns until the Western Conference Finals. Contenders win games they need, even when they’re tired.
The supporting cast no-showed again
Jalen Brunson showed up and contributed, scoring 21 points to go along with five rebounds and three assists. Other than that, the Mavericks got almost no production from the rest of the lineup. Luka and Brunson combined to score 57 points. The rest of the roster scored 46 points. That’s insane. And if the Mavericks lose in the playoffs, it’s likely to be a game like this, where the rest of the roster falls flat on their face and the defense isn’t tight enough. Again, the players are probably tired, but so is everyone else in the NBA.
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