The Dallas Mavericks lost embarrassingly — again — on Sunday afternoon. The rebuilt Los Angeles Lakers were in town, fighting to improve their seeding. After falling behind by 27 points, things looked grim for the Lakeshow. It wouldn’t matter.
Over 28 minutes, spanning the last few minutes of the second quarter and the entire second half, the Mavericks squandered their lead as the Lakers chipped away. L.A. walked away with a 111-108 win.
There were a lot of factors playing into Dallas’ abysmal collapse. After the game, Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd called out his veteran team, especially the extracurricular complaints of the team’s superstar, Luka Doncic.
“I’m not the savior here. I’m just watching, just like you guys,” Kidd said after the game. “As a team, we’ve got to mature. We’ve got a lot of new bodies coming back and we have to grow up if we want to win a championship. No young team has ever won a championship, mentally or physically.”
Dallas isn’t a young team. While it’s a common refrain from the Mavericks’ leadership, seven of the team’s regular rotation players — when healthy —are age-30 or over. One player, in particular, isn’t, however: Doncic.
Doncic spent a lot of the game on the floor. He spent multiple possessions slowly getting up from the court after falling to the hardwood, watching the action play out on the other end without a shred of urgency to rush back on defense.
There was plenty of theatrics to go around in the game. LeBron James was very animated after the referees didn’t bend their knees and calls did not go his way. If the Lakers had lost, his antics might be a talking point, but Dallas lost, and Doncic’s coach singled him out.
“I think it’s just our maturity — just understanding what we have to do at that time,” Kidd said about Doncic’s chirping at the officials. “Just focus on that play, [we] can’t get distracted with the whistle, and we just have to keep playing. It just happens that way. We’ve seen a lot of basketball games with big leads. We know which way the whistle is going to go. You got to play through it.”
For his part, Doncic, who has never been one for Shakespearian soliloquies, agreed with Kidd’s assessment that he and the team got distracted by the officials.
“It’s probably true,” he said.
While there is enough blame for Dallas’ loss, Kidd was the one person who didn’t take responsibility. Yes, Doncic was distracted. Yes, the players let their foot off the gas and allowed the Lakers to come back and steal a win. But Kidd is the coach. The buck stops with him. Yet he has the same knack for passing the buck just like he did passing the ball on the fast break.
As the Lakers made their run through the third and fourth quarters, Kidd sat on his hands. Rather than stemming L.A.’s momentum with a timeout — or several — he watched like a spectator. In his above comment, he seemingly tries to absolve himself of all responsibility, intentional or not.
“We lost our rhythm, in the sense of just playing the game and not worrying about the other elements,” Kidd deflected.
Then there are the rotation decisions. Kidd chose to go with another new starting lineup Sunday, starting newly signed Justin Holiday, who had 15 points in his debut Thursday, over Josh Green. Holiday played 28 minutes. Green saw 15, despite scoring more points — nine points to six.
Most devastatingly, Kidd kept Christian Wood parked on the pine when Anthony Davis started to get going. Kidd threw Dwight Powell, who never quits on a possession, into the fire, and Davis cooked him. Wood might not be an elite defender, but his size certainly gave Davis trouble. Powell’s frame offered little resistance. At the very least Wood’s presence on offense pulled Davis away from the rim, something Powell can’t do.
Doncic’s distraction wasn’t the sole reason the Mavericks squandered a huge lead against a team out of the playoff picture. No one person is to blame, but owning the failure was not in Kidd’s wheelhouse. He chose to be a spectator rather than being assertive. It left Doncic, and the team, looking for excuses.
“I think we just stopped doing what was working for us,” Doncic said.