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Mavs vs. Pacers Recap: 3 observations from a 124-122 Dallas loss to Indiana

This feels like rock bottom.

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks fell to the Indiana Pacers by a score of 124-122 Tuesday night in Dallas. Luka Doncic led the way for Dallas with 39 points, eight rebounds, and six assists. Tyrese Haliburton paced Indiana with 32 points of his own. The Mavericks fall to 32-31 on the season, which is headed downhill in a big way.

The first quarter saw Dallas native Myles Turner score the first eight points for Indiana, as the Mavericks struggled to protect the paint (shocking, I know). Birthday Boy Luka Doncic was brilliant, scoring 18 in the frame and getting to the rim with ease. Maxi Kleber also made his triumphant return to the lineup and made a positive impact. But missed free throws and a failure to get consistent stops prevented Dallas from swelling their lead, ending the first up just two at 33-31.

Indiana scored the first seven points of the second quarter, part of an 11-0 run that finally came to a close when Josh Green scored a fast-break layup. Dallas steadied themselves a bit and briefly took a one-point lead, but then all hell broke loose. Indiana got to the free throw line at will against a terrible Maverick defense, and Dallas was unable to hit their own foul shots (10-of-20 in the first half). Tyrese Haliburton started to cook and suddenly, the Mavericks found themselves down 70-59 at the half.

After taking a couple minutes to find their footing in the third, Dallas got serious and made a run to take the lead. However, Indiana quickly responded with a 10-0 run of their own, led by the two-man game of Haliburton and Turner. The two teams traded blows for the remainder of the period, but the Pacers were able to close it out on a high note. The Mavericks found themselves down 106-98 entering the final quarter.

The fourth quarter opened with one bone-headed play after another from Christian Wood, allowing Indiana to build their lead to as many as 12 before Wood finally subbed out. The Pacers continued to sustain their lead, but a furious Maverick comeback, aided by two missed clutch free throws by RJ Nembhard, made this a two-point game with seven seconds to go. Dallas had a chance to tie or win the game, and it went exactly how you would expect it to go, only this time it was Kyrie Irving who missed a step-back three from the left wing as time expired. The Mavericks lost. They are not a good basketball team.

The defense is not getting better

A couple weeks ago, Jason Kidd joked that defense is not important; today’s NBA is about outscoring other teams. At this point, I have to believe that the Mavericks really don’t place any value on stopping the other team from scoring. They sure don’t seem to show much interest in it on the court. Indiana scored 50 points in the paint tonight, which actually counts as a major improvement for the Mavericks’ poverty interior defense. However, the Pacers made 31 free throws, their most in a game in over two years. Maverick defenders were beat off the dribble time and time again, forced to foul when put in disadvantageous positions.

Indiana also added 11 threes, and though they cooled off in the second half, they had no problem scoring from everywhere else. If it weren’t for the Rockets and Spurs of the world, this would be the worst defense in the NBA.

The Mavericks need more from Kyrie Irving

This was the second straight subpar game from the shiny new toy. Everyone is to blame for failing to get Kyrie more involved: the coaching staff, Irving himself, and his co-superstar Luka Doncic. They need to figure out ways to keep him engaged throughout the game, not just the fourth quarter. Irving needs to be more aggressive and hit the open shots he gets. Kidd needs to get more creative and design set action to get Irving going. And Doncic needs to adapt his off-ball game to account for another ball dominant superstar.

If the defense is going to remain this bad, the already great Mavericks offense needs to go to another level to win basketball games. That starts with figuring out how to get the most out of the best teammate Luka has ever had.

Final possession woes continue

It wasn’t just the last play of the game that was so frustrating tonight. Dallas had five possessions and seven shot attempts while the score was within two points in the final two minutes. They settled for (and missed) threes five times during this stretch. At a certain point, it might be a good idea to attack the basket. The refs did call a whopping 48 fouls in this game. Maybe you earn a trip to the line. But the Mavericks live and die by the three. It is who they are. And time and time again, Kidd and the coaching staff have demonstrated that they have no ideas for a game tying or winning shot outside of “superstar gets the ball and shoots a three.” It is unacceptable that nothing else has even been attempted. It is coaching malpractice. Sure, Kyrie is a tough shot maker. Yes, he is more than capable of hitting that shot. But again, you don’t need a three to win the game. Try something new. Catch the defense by surprise. It is so exhausting watching this team fail in the same manner over and over and over again. See everyone on Thursday.