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NBA Power Rankings Watch: the Mavericks offense stays red hot

The team is finally facing their first tests of the season and navigating ways to recover and improve.

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NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Los Angeles Lakers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

It was a rough and tumble last week for the Dallas Mavericks. They dropped back-to-back games for the first time this season over the weekend in losses to the Milwaukee Bucks and Sacramento Kings. Then they escaped with a win against the Los Angeles Lakers after coughing up a large lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Fifteen games into the season the storyline is solidifying: the offense is beyond lethal and the defense is about as bad as last season. This, with Dereck Lively’s rebounding going away after sustaining a back contusion in the third quarter against the Lakers. There will be plenty of pressure put on the offense producing as they head into December. With all that being measured the Mavericks have slipped in this week’s watch.


ESPN

Rank: 7

Last week: 4

Dallas slipped into the bottom five in defense this week after allowing a total of 261 points in back-to-back losses to the Bucks and Kings. A main driver? The Mavs are giving up 57 points in the paint per game, the second most in the league. “Right now, our best defense is our offense,” coach Jason Kidd said. “If we’re not scoring 130, it’s hard to win.” — MacMahon

NBA

Rank: 9

Last week: 5

Defense remains an issue for the Mavs, who allowed 124.8 points per 100 possessions as they lost three of their four games last week. The last two were against improving offenses in Milwaukee and Sacramento, but the first two were against the Pelicans and Wizards.

Three takeaways

The Mavs’ defense issues start inside. Their opponents have shot 64% in the paint, the league’s highest opponent mark by a huge margin. (The Blazers have the second highest at 60.6%.) Playing some zone late in the second quarter in New Orleans on Tuesday helped them trim a 19-point deficit down to 10, but things got out of hand in the second half.

An 11-point, fourth-quarter lead in Milwaukee on Saturday turned into the Mavs’ first clutch loss of the season when they allowed the Bucks to score 17 points on 10 clutch possessions. They were previously 6-0 (the only undefeated team) in games that were within five points in the last five minutes.

The Mavs have averaged 102.0 possessions per 48 minutes, fifth in the league and up from 97.2 (28th) last season. That’s been the league’s biggest jump in pace.

The Mavs and Pacers both rank in the top five on offense, in the bottom five on defense, and in the top five in pace. Unfortunately, they’re not scheduled to play each other until after the All-Star break, and the Pacers’ In-Season Tournament success makes it unlikely that Dallas-Indy will be one of the two inter-conference games scheduled for Week 7.

Their loss to the Kings on Sunday actually began a stretch where the Mavs are playing 17 straight games within the West (as long as they get two conference games in Week 7). They can get in some practice time over the next two weeks, as they’ll have two days off before each of their next four games, with an extended stay in L.A. this week.

The Athletic

Rank: 9 (Tier 3: Playoff Teams)

Last week: 5

Good News: It’s not just Luka Dončić, even though his play is abnormally great (even for him). The entire Mavs offense is clicking right now and putting pressure on Philly and Indiana for best in the league. They rain 3-pointers down on you, and you just have to pray.

Bad News: Wow, this defense is still really bad, so it’s good the offense has been so lethal. They can’t stop teams from making shots. They allow the third-highest effective field goal percentage in the league.

Good News: Tim Hardaway Jr. is playing the best basketball of his career. Having his offense off the bench is almost unfair.