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Stats Rundown: 5 numbers from the Mavericks demoralizing 111-108 loss to the Lakers

Using numbers to make sense of a collapse.

The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Dallas Mavericks in heartbreaking fashion, 111-108.

Here are some stats and numbers that help to explain the loss.

27: The size of the Lakers comeback

I have a bone to pick wit ESPN Stats and Info. Every time the Mavericks suffer an astounding loss, I see a graphic or a tweet of a number which further twist the knife. Some mathematical rarity, some epically rare collapse without precedent.

Remember this?

It’s as if the team’s very identity is that of a gambling addict in a crime movie who swears they’ve just hit a series of bad beats. I guess I shouldn’t blame innocent statisticians, or Tim McMahon for sharing the information, but in fact blame the team for their own ability to suffer improbable defeats that are snatched from the jaws of victory. In fact, maybe it’s time to stop chalking it up to the hands of fate. Maybe losing in agonizing fashion only indicates a team that is not a winner.

58 and 12, 36 and 23: Minutes and points for Holiday, Powell and Green, Wood

The first set of numbers are the minutes and points, respectively, of Dwight Powell and Justin Holiday. The second set are the minutes and points of Josh Green and Christian Wood. Points aren’t everything, but had the scoring been even, I could make good case for why this is strange and boneheaded.

Holiday only recently became a Dallas Maverick and was barely hanging around the fringes of another team’s rotation; Green is a player we’ve heard the organization call untouchable and a “stealth candidate for Most Improved Player”. Green did get into early foul trouble, but he wasn’t in the closing lineup and there was no urgency to get him on the floor as the Lakers came back in the early second-half. We’ve seen what his energy does when the team is going through the motions. He’s also frankly earned the right to have more agency over games than a recent buy-out addition.

Powell, on the other hand, was a minus-14 to Christian Wood’s plus-8. On/off isn’t everything either, but the Mavericks weren’t getting stops inside regardless and Wood clearly helps open up the offense by allowing it to go five-out. The only reason an NBA team should clog their own lane in 2023 is if it’s greatly helping the defense; his vertical gravity was insubstantial with Anthony Davis and Jarred Vanderbilt in the way. We all know Powell is not as bad as his worst detractors think, and Wood isn’t as good as his biggest supporters claim. With the offensive firepower this team has, it’s also excusable to use Wood as a sixth man. Still, Wood is the better player, and the situational and/or lineup construction issues he creates can only be so destructive.

15 and 17

That’s points and rebounds for Jarred Vanderbilt, and throw four steals in while we’re at it. He single-handedly flipped the game with energy, toughness, and athleticism, specifically how it affected Luka. The intersection of mobility and strength that Vanderbilt has is one of the few ways to do so. It’s also an important intersection of skills for a playoff basketball team.

The Mavericks badly need some kind of forward or small ball big who has real athleticism and ferocity. They do need rim protection, of course, and rebounding too, but it’s really old fashioned force in the Dennis Rodman-esque sense that this organization never has, even going back to Dirk’s days. We continue to see how vital Maxi Kleber is to the whole enterprise as our defensive lynch pin, but he’s not an “enforcer” per say, nor can he be relied upon physically to match body blows with such young athletes.

14, 28

Fourteen free throw attempts for the Mavericks to the Lakers’ twenty-eight. I did think the refs gave the Lakers a good whistle, and Luka was hacked both at the rim and in the backcourt. Still, the Mavs have no excuse.

20, 6

After all, the Mavericks did hit fourteen more three-pointers than the Lakers. Who only made six and still won! In the year 2023!

There were other telling box score stats that led to the Lakers overcoming such long-range dominance; it takes a lot of math going the other direction, not just free throws but second chance points and points off turnovers. Of course, what these all build up to is points in the paint.

It just feels extraneous to dig through the weeds of this funky, rotten stat sheet when you see that. The first three numbers I gave have all the answers in them. It’s a team who haven’t figured out how to win 50/50 games. It’s a coach who seemingly doesn’t know who his best lineups, rotations or even players are. And it’s a roster with two elite shot-creators and some good ancillary pieces, but missing a core component of the sport — the kind of physical gifts, size and athleticism which define what happens around the basket.

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