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Mavericks vs. Hawks Recap: 3 thoughts as Dallas drops 130-122 game to Atlanta

Mavericks defense continues to struggle as losing streak climbs to three

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks fell to the Atlanta Hawks 130-122 in Dallas Wednesday night. Luka Doncic led the Mavericks with 30 points, while Hawks guard Dejounte Murray matched Doncic with 30 points of his own. This is Dallas’ third loss in a row.

It was a tough game for the Dallas defense from the start, with the Hawks scoring 40 points in the first quarter. Neither team could really get a stop as both teams were above 50 percent shooting for a majority of the night. The Mavericks briefly held a double digit lead after a spectacular start to the third quarter, but the Hawks instantly erased it with an 8-0 run of their own that took just one minute off the clock.

The fourth quarter was back and forth until Atlanta pulled away with clutch shots from Murray, some miscues from the Mavericks offense, and then free throws from Trae Young. Since their seven game win streak, the Mavericks are 2-6 and have lost five of their last six games.

Here are our thoughts.

The Mavericks defense is still a mess

Dallas’ defense hasn’t been the same since the defensive trio of Maxi Kleber, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Josh Green all left with injuries toward the beginning of December. The Mavericks have desperately needed those players back to reclaim some semblance of quality defense and thankfully, both Finney-Smith and Green returned to the lineup for the first time in weeks.

Unfortunately, it didn’t matter.

The Hawks torched the Mavericks for most of the night. As per usual during this defensive slide, the Mavericks provided a layup line at the rim. Atlanta shot 13-of-19 in the restricted area and 12-of-23 in the paint but outside the restricted area. The Hawks are usually more midrange focused (and they did go 8-of-18 from midrange) but the Mavericks defense was so poor at cutting off dribble penetration, the Hawks didn’t settle. Atlanta also connected on 13-of-26 from three, mostly coming from that dribble penetration.

Three point shooting can vary, so the Mavericks defense won’t always face a team hitting 50 percent of its threes against them. But the issues with guarding the rim are very real and the Mavericks have to find a way to contain dribble penetration. Even if opposing teams go cold from three, the defense will continue to struggle if players are allowed line drives to the basket.

A ‘mortal’ game from Luka Doncic

Doncic finished with a typically brilliant stat line — 30 points, four rebounds, eight assists — but he definitely wasn’t on his game tonight. Doncic shot under 50 percent from the field, missed 6-of-8 three pointers and had seven turnovers.

The seven turnovers are what stood out, as a lot of them were uncharacteristically bad passes from Doncic out of double teams. One such turnover saw Doncic lose the ball almost near midcourt when the Hawks sent a double at him, resulting in an easy fastbreak the other way.

Things just weren’t as clean as they usually are from Doncic. The Mavericks offense was still lights out for the most part, but those hiccups helped provide the difference in an eight-point loss.

Dorian Finney-Smith and Josh Green were a sight for sore eyes

Despite the duo’s return not having immediate impact on the Mavericks defense, it was still good to see Finney-Smith and Green back on the floor.

Green picked up where he left off, with some fun bouncy plays in the halfcourt, and some decent passing. He finished with nine points on 3-of-3 shooting, although he didn’t do much elsewhere with only one steal, one assist, and one rebound.

Finney-Smith didn’t have a great offensive game (nine points, 1-of-6 shooting from three) and his defense looked rusty, but he grabbed nine rebounds and his presence on the perimeter was much needed. Neither Frank Ntilikina nor Theo Pinson played, and no offense to either of those players, but it was a good to finally see the Mavericks not have to dip into the bottom of their bench to find minutes on the perimeter. Hopefully Finney-Smith and Green get better with some more minutes in the next week or so.

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