The Dallas Mavericks fell to the Washington Wizards at home, 127-126. The Mavericks had a chance to stop the bleeding after the most recent loss to the Clippers but failed to get stops when it mattered. Kyle Kuzma led Washington with 30 points. Luka Doncic put up 41 points, 16 rebounds, and six assists for Dallas, but it wasn’t enough.
This game was largely devoid of defense from either team. While Doncic scored well early, so did the Wizards. Every time Dallas would score, Washington seemed to have an answer and while they managed to close the gap just before halftime, some lapses from Dallas allowed the Wizards to take a five point lead into the half.
The second half saw the Wizards start throwing constant double teams at Dallas and to the credit of a number of Maverick players, Josh Green in particular, Dallas stepped up and scored the ball in a variety of different ways. Unfortunately, the defense remained the same. Dallas crawled back into the game late, only for Luka to miss a clutch late game free throw, which left the game tied. On the next possession, Doncic fouled Kuzma, who hit one of two free throws. The Wizards stole the ball on the last possession and Dallas did not get a shot attempt off, resulting in them losing the game 127-126.
Defense is the key
The team’s defense, or lack thereof, was ultimately its downfall. Early on, the Wizards were practically being escorted to the paint. Rotations were slow, close outs were ineffective, and Dwight Powell was powerless to stop the never-ending layup drill. It was an embarrassing performance on the defensive end.
Powell’s energy and effort can be useful when the defense around him is doing its job. He’s incapable, however, of being a deterrent at the rim when he is the only line of defense. Eventually the team over compensated and started giving up a ton of open looks from three. They were fortunate Kuzma struggled from deep or the game would have been out of hand much earlier. Despite Kuzma going 2-of-10 from three, the Wizards still managed to shoot a respectable 36.7% behind the arc as a team.
It’s been said before, but the lack of defense wipes away any margin for error the Mavericks have. The team played well enough on offense to beat this Wizards team. Washington has scored 125 points just three times in their last 30 games. How does a team allow a below average offense to score 125 points? It does so by fouling so much the opponent shoots 41 free throws, including 11 by Deni Avdija. The same Deni Avdija that had shot more than five free throws in game just twice this season before entering tonight’s game.
Simply put, this team isn’t good enough on defense to be considered one of the best teams in the league. Usually, it’s easy to point the finger at a player or two for break downs or miscommunications on defense. Tonight, it truly was a team effort. Spencer Dinwiddie was bad. Tim Hardaway Jr. was terrible. Dwight Powell was shooting nerf bullets at a tank. The list goes on and on. The need for a dynamic playmaker is evident but unless this team starts to defend again, it probably won’t matter.
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