For the first time this season, the Mavericks lost their second straight game, falling to the Kings, 129-113. Luka Dončić finished with 25 points and seven assists while Kyrie Irving contributed 23 points, but they were both outclassed by Domantas Sabonis, who had 32 points, 13 rebounds, and six assists, and De’Aaron Fox, who had 30 points, seven assists, and three steals.
The Mavericks won the first quarter 36-35 behind 11 points from Kyrie and 10 from Luka. Both offenses started out strong, with the Kings shooting 60% from the floor in the first, and the Mavericks keeping pace by shooting 52.4% and getting to the line for 12 free throws in the period. A ton of foul calls gave the quarter an odd rhythm, and Tim Hardaway Jr. and former Maverick JaVale McGee each got technical fouls after McGee’s furious response to a push to the chest from Hardaway.
Both teams stayed hot in the second, and the Kings got to the rim at will as they outscored the Mavericks 35-29 in the frame. Hardaway and Irving each scored eight points in the second to keep Dallas connected. Still, the Mavericks continued to be hammered on the inside by Domantas Sabonis, who scored 18 points and dished out five assists in the first half, giving the Kings a 70-65 lead going into the break.
The Kings outscored the Mavericks 37-31 in the third quarter, led by Fox, who scored 12 points in the period. Fox made three straight threes halfway through the quarter, and the Kings made seven threes as a team in the third, while the Mavericks made just three. The Kings finished the quarter on an 11-4 run that gave them a 107-96 lead going into the fourth.
The Kings continued to build momentum as they started the fourth quarter with a 15-5 run to put the Mavericks away for good. The Mavericks completely ran out of gas on offense and shot two of ten from the field to start the fourth before coach Jason Kidd waved the white flag and pulled the starters down 122-101 with 5:28 left in the game.
The Mavericks need to get it together defensively
Once again, the Mavericks continuously gave their opponent a free path to the rim throughout the game, and the Kings took full advantage, scoring 58 points in the paint. So far this season the Mavericks have shown a complete inability to offer up any resistance at the point of attack or effectively make multiple rotations once the first defender gets beat. This game was no different, as the Kings were able to get a layup or an open three after one drive and/or pass almost every possession. Even when their opponent misses their first shot, the Mavericks often fail to close out defensive possessions, and this game continued that trend as the Kings killed the Mavericks on the glass, turning 14 offensive rebounds into 22 second-chance points.
While the Mavericks will likely need to acquire at least one or two bigger, above-average perimeter defenders before they are ready to contend, the players they have now must improve their cohesiveness and become at least competent on the defensive end if the Mavericks want to be more competitive against above-.500 teams.
Yet another failed test
After losing to the Bucks and the Kings, the Mavericks have only won one game against a team that is currently above-.500 (the Orlando Magic), and two out of their four games against quality opponents (Denver, Orlando, Milwaukee, Sacramento) have been relatively uncompetitive. If the Mavericks want to prove that they deserve to be taken seriously, they need to do more than simply take care of business against inferior opponents.
Josh Green finally had a positive performance
Green had one of his better games this season, finishing with 11 points, five assists, and two steals. He managed to create some turnovers and get out in transition, which is when he looks most comfortable and decisive. His performance was one of the few positive takeaways from a disheartening game, but the Mavericks will need him to build on it and start demonstrating more consistency, particularly on the defensive end.
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