The Dallas Mavericks fell to the Charlotte Hornets 110-104 Sunday afternoon, embarrassingly getting swept by a bottom-five team in a two-game home-and-home series. A sense of deja-vu defined the game, as the Maverick’s season-long weaknesses continue to define them. They are now three games under .500, and the Oklahoma City Thunder will have a chance to pull a game ahead Sunday evening.
It’s hard to fathom the Mavericks losing both of their games against Charlotte with so much at stake, but it would appear that this particular roster’s flaws are insurmountable. Here are four stats and one interesting number to help fans make sense of this crushing result.
19: The Hornets largest lead of the game
The Hornets largest lead was 19 points, coming after the Mavericks fell down by double-digits early against this same Hornets team on Friday night. That feels all-too familiar in this frustrating Mavericks season, where the Mavericks have continually started games slow. I’ve often called it a sense of casualness, especially against non-contending teams, that stems seemingly from Luka and then filters into the rest of the roster. Considering the stakes of these late-season games, casualness seems both too kind a word, and one incapable of explaining away team-wide effort.
There are serious problems defensively in terms of roster construction and an athletic deficiency, but there were myriad drives into the paint that went unchecked, and close-outs were lethargic. Like the rest of this stats rundown, a sense of deja vu defined the game.
20, 22: Hornets advantage in rebounding, points in the paint
The Hornets out-rebounded the Mavericks by twenty, with eleven more offensive rebounds, and out-scored the Mavericks by twenty-two points in the paint. The Mavericks are last in points-in-the-paint offensively, and second-to-last in rebounding percentage; while this isn’t shocking, the Mavericks are a less-putrid 20th in allowing points in the paint and when it comes to opposing team’s second chance points. I would have thought it even closer to the bottom, with interior defense such a glaring weakness all season. What this tells me is that the concept of rim pressure is where the Mavericks lose games on both sides of the ball, which I don’t feel should be possible with Luka Doncic on the team.
For many teams, even those whose creation burden rests largely in the backcourt, there are athletes in the frontcourt who create interior points off their presence alone; the Mavericks, as you’ll see with the next stat, lack this almost fundamental aspect of a basketball roster.
5: Combined points scored by the Mavericks starting frontcourt
This is a little bit of a cheat, since Dwight Powell only played four minutes, Josh Green played fourteen, and the combination of Christian Wood and Maxi Kleber scored twenty-three off the bench. Nevertheless, it’s problematic for two starters to play eighteen combined minutes and for three to combine for five points. Eventually, the term “starter” can start to feel meaningless when other players play the majority of the game, but in a game that was defined by an early deficit, it feels symbolic that most of the players chosen to start a game have such little impact. Most glaringly, Green had exactly one stat –a steal –in his fourteen minutes, and was a minus-25.
Maybe it’s a wall he’s hit, maybe it’s a lack of confidence from his role being yanked around, and maybe he finds it hard to fit in as a purely off-ball wing after his best play this season coming as a secondary ball handler. Whatever it is, one of the few bright spots this season is playing his worst at the most important time.
40: Luka Doncic’s points scored
Luka had forty points and tried his best to will the Mavericks to victory. He performed well enough to win, even as his play and attitude have been frustrating lately, and he was unable to carry this severely flawed team to victory over the team with the fourth-worst record in the NBA.
While the team losing as Luka plays well may seem to continue the theme of deja-vu, they are 9-4 this season when Luka does score forty. What does seem all-too familiar is Luka losing steam late and settling for long-range bombs with the game on the line. Kyrie Irving, meanwhile, mostly settled for mid-range shots and seemed unable to impact the game in a positive manner. It would appear that his foot injury is still majorly affecting his burst, and right now the duo look nothing like the two-pronged attack the Mavericks hoped would lighten Luka’s load.
1-10: The range is which the Mavericks 2023 pick has to land to keep it
The Mavericks, as has been stated many times, owe the New York Knicks their pick unless it falls within the top ten. They are one game above the Chicago Bulls in the draft order. The fatalistically cruel possibility of giving the Knicks the 11th pick after the Jalen Brunson fiasco seems like the perfect capper to what has been such a frustrating season, but it’s in the Mavericks best interest to ensure they get their pick. You never know how the lottery odds will work out; the Mavericks could get a true blue chip player either by rising higher or nailing the pick. This team badly needs an infusion of athleticism, but it would also be hugely beneficial to the team’s ability to improve the roster if they added a trade chip from this solid draft.
It may seem insane, considering where this team was a year ago and after the Kyrie Irving trade, to write what I just wrote, but at this point it feels objectively true.
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