We’re back from the all-star break, fresh off a Dallas Mavericks victory, laser-focused on the home stretch of the regular season. Even following a convincing victory against the lowly San Antonio Spurs the Mavericks will need time to sort out chemistry and rotations, primarily with Kyrie Irving but also buyout-addition Justin Holiday.
The hope is that the latter of those two players can provide some perimeter defense as well. Noted plenty below in this week’s power rankings watch, the Mavericks have dropped off considerably on that end of the floor compared to last season. Perhaps, as head coach Jason Kidd wryly suggested before the break, it doesn’t matter and that the team will just try to outscore every opponent heading into the playoffs. And if that’s even remotely true, Kidd has to sort out how to optimize his bench unit.
Here is this week’s watch:
Rank: 13 (Tier 3: Play-in tournament team or better)
Last week: 11
1st Q: +4.6 net rating (previous: +7.1) | Ranked 9th (previous: 7th)
2nd Q: -4.6 net rating (previous: +2.5) | Ranked 24th (previous: 11th)
3rd Q: +3.6 net rating (previous: -0.2) | Ranked 7th — tied (previous: 16th)
4th Q: -1.9 net rating (previous: -2.2) | Ranked 22nd (previous: 18th)
Clutch: +1.9 net rating (previous: -11.8) | Ranked 12th (previous: 22nd tied) | 37 games (21-16) (Previous: 18 games, 9-9)
Takeaway: It’ll be interesting to see how the Mavericks perform at the end of games with Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic both on the court together. They’ve been pretty miserable in second quarters and fourth quarters this season. Their end of game offense is way too poor considering the singular weapon they’ve had on the floor. Now add Irving, who was a clutch killer in Brooklyn. The Mavs could go on a big run here and be even more successful at the end of games. They’ve relied on their defense to show up, and it did. Things have completely flipped now and it will hopefully have even bigger long-term results for them.
Last week: 9
The Mavs are 0-2 with both Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving in the lineup, and they also lost without Irving in Denver on Wednesday. Not unexpectedly, defense has been an issue; they’ve allowed 123.8 points allowed per 100 possessions over the three-game losing streak, with their loss to Minnesota last week (in which the Wolves shot 32-for-43 in the paint) being the sixth time they’ve allowed more than 130 points per 100 possessions. They could really use a healthy Maxi Kleber (who’s missed the last 33 games) as soon as possible.
But the Mavs have the league’s easiest remaining schedule in regard to cumulative opponent winning percentage (.466), and they’re tied with the Pistons for the fewest games remaining (4) against teams that currently rank in the top 10 offensively. But they haven’t been particularly good at taking care of business against weaker opponents. In fact, they’re one of two teams – the Spurs are the other – that have more wins (they’re 16-15) against the 15 teams currently over .500 than they do (they’re 15-14) against the 15 teams that are currently at or below .500. Their post-break schedule begins with a six-game homestand, with the first three games against that latter group.
Three numbers to know…
1. The Mavs have allowed 6.1 more points per 100 possessions than they did last season (109.1), when they ranked seventh defensively. Only the Spurs (+8.1) Warriors (+7.5) have seen bigger jumps.
2. They rank 29th in the percentage of their shots (42%) that have come in the paint and lead the league in 3-point rate, having taken 48.7% of their shots from beyond the arc.
3. They’re the only team that ranks in the bottom five in both ball movement (291 passes per 24 minutes of possession, 28th) and player movement (10.2 miles traveled per 24 minutes of possession, 30th).
Last week: 8
All eyes figure to be on the Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving pairing after the All-Star break, but something peculiar is happening with Christian Wood in the meantime.
On the season, the Dallas Mavericks are plus-5.9 points per 100 possessions when Luka shares the floor with Wood, compared to plus-2.9 when Luka is without him.
So, why is Wood scrounging for minutes in a three-center rotation that includes JaVale McGee and Dwight Powell?
Christian Wood:— Andy Bailey (@AndrewDBailey) February 16, 2023
24.1 PTS, 10.8 REB, 2.4 AST, 2.4 3P, 1.6 BLK, 0.6 STL per 75 possessions, +5.4 rTS%, +0.4 EPM
Avg of Dwight Powell and JaVale McGee (with an adjustment for minutes):
14.2 PTS, 8.9 REB, 1.5 AST, 0.0 3P, 1.2 BLK, 1.1 STL per 75 possessions, +12.2 rTS%, -0.7 EPM
The cynical observer may wonder if Dallas (which infamously botched Jalen Brunson’s free agency) is worried about the kind of contract Wood might command this offseason.
The reality of the rest of 2022-23 may force the Mavs and coach Jason Kidd’s hand, though. Dallas is in play-in range, and if it wants to avoid that chaos, it might have to start playing Wood more consistently with Dončić and Kyrie.