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Mavericks vs Rockets Final Score: Dallas gets walloped by Houston, 122-96

A short handed Dallas team can’t hang with the Rockets

Dallas Mavericks v Houston Rockets Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

The Dallas Mavericks fell to the Houston Rockets on the road Friday night, losing 122-96. Alperin Senguin cooked Dallas, scoring 22 and grabbing 15 boards in just 25 minutes. Olivier Maxence Prosper led Dallas off the bench with 20 points.

The Mavericks played Friday’s game without so, so many players. Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving, Josh Green, Maxi Kleber, Dante Exum, and Dereck Lively all missed the game with various injuries. For those of you counting at home, that’s six rotation players. That left Tim Hardaway, Jaden Hardy, Grant Williams, and Dwight Powell assuming larger roles for the Mavericks against an upstart Rockets team.

It did not go well.

Despite a first-quarter score that ended with Dallas down 23-17, the Mavericks were in trouble from the opening tip. Houston was bigger and stronger and Dallas didn’t have a single playmaker on the floor. Sengun finished the first quarter with 9 points and five boards and carved the interior defense of Dallas.

The Mavericks finished with just 39 points at the half as Dallas was overmatched at every single position. Things didn’t get any better in the second half, though Dallas fans were treated to some hard-charging play from G-League players Dexter Dennis, AJ Lawson, and Greg Brown though. We’ll talk about them more below.

This game deserved a running clock and I am annoyed that I had to waste my time watching it. The Dallas Mavericks fell to the Houston Rockets, 122-96.

Luka Doncic might be the Most Valuable Player

Is it uncouth to lead with a thought about a guy who didn’t play a minute of basketball? Probably. And yet watching the Mavericks score 17 points in the first quarter and 22 in the second, I couldn’t help but think that this game is a case for Doncic being the MVP. The offense was, and this is no understatement, as awful as anything I’ve seen in 20-plus years as a Mavericks fan. Doncic is that important of a driver as he’s been playing with this lot plus Exum for several games now. I know the Mavericks didn’t have a point guard but it looked as if the remaining rotation guys were unclear how basketball worked.

Do the Mavericks have an actual offense?

This was something brought to my attention the other day in a debate about Tim Hardaway Jr. There’s no reason to play Luka-ball when Luka Doncic isn’t playing, and yet Dallas runs this sloppy pick-and-roll heavy system anyway when he’s not around. I don’t expect the Princeton offense or the classic Flex system but do the Mavericks have any plays that make sense beyond post-ups from 17 feet? Sean Sweeney took over the offense this year and I’d be curious as to what that means beyond “Luka Doncic good”.

Jaden Hardy, what would you say you do here?

A lot of you aren’t going to like me being this harsh about a second-year player thrust into a different role. I get that. But I also see a lot of drivel about Hardy being “special” and while I enjoy his play when Dallas sets him up to succeed, he’s a one-dimensional player at best. He’s a scoring guard who can’t score without help. He shot 3-of-17 tonight and looked absolutely lost. What’s worse is his body language. He plays entitled basketball and in this here NBA, a player is entitled to nothing. Compared to these other guys we’re about to talk about, watching Hardy is among the most frustrating things I’ve endured lately.

Young guys, thank you for playing HARD

Even with the most skilled players alive, there’s so much that isn’t under a player’s control in a given night. One thing that is? Effort. Enter Olivier Maxence-Prosper, Dexter Dennis, AJ Lawson, and Greg Brown. Are any of these guys long-term NBA players? I have no idea. But they played against Houston like their jobs depended on it and it was really something to see Dexter Dennis rise to the occasion with 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting, watching O-Max fight like crazy on the boards, and seeing Lawson drive with fury. Fans ask for a lot and this game really stunk, but it was great to see the effort from these players.