The Dallas Mavericks lost to the Boston Celtics in Dallas Monday night, falling 119-110. Luka Doncic had another triple double, but it wasn’t enough against the best team in the NBA. Dallas has now lost two straight.
Boston controlled the game from the second quarter on, but the Mavericks never let the game get totally out of control. A double-digit second half lead was whittled down to seven with five minutes left, but the Mavericks couldn’t get over the hump.
Here are a few stats that stood out as the Mavericks failed to prove their worth against tougher competition yet again.
The Mavericks made just 14 threes, falling short of a key threshold
Entering tonight’s game, the Mavericks were averaging 15.2 three-pointers made per game. In wins, they are averaging 17.0 three-pointers made, while they were averaging just 12.6 in their losses. After tonight’s game, the Mavericks are 4-14 when they make 14 threes or fewer (and they are 20-5 when they make 15 threes or more). While the Celtics only made one more three-pointer than the Mavericks tonight, the Mavericks (as currently constructed) appear to be incapable of winning unless they outproduce their opponent from long-range.
Luka Dončić recorded his eighth triple-double of the season
Luka finished with 33 points, 18 rebounds, and 13 assists, and still managed to be a net negative in what felt like one of the emptiest performances of his career. In the two losses since his return from a three-game absence caused by an ankle injury, Luka has looked haggard, coming up woefully short on many of his shots. Tonight, he was an extremely inefficient 12-of-30 from the floor and just 3-of-12 from shots outside the paint.
He let Boston’s physicality get to him early and picked up yet another technical foul, his seventh of the season (putting him nearly halfway to earning a suspension). Luka put a lot of strain on his body carrying the Mavericks amidst a slew of injuries to his teammates, but he will need to recover quickly and regain his form from earlier in the season if the Mavericks want to move up in the standings.
Maxi Kleber was 0-for-3 from three in 25 minutes and only attempted two shots before the fourth quarter
The Mavericks are playing four-on-five on offense whenever Maxi is on the floor because he is unwilling to shoot, and opposing defenses have started to ignore him entirely. During the Mavericks’ run to the Western Conference Finals in 2022, Kleber was invaluable as a stretch five who could guard multiple positions on defense while providing Luka and the team’s other playmakers space to operate on the other end. Now, injuries have drained him of his ability to make a bigger impact on defense, and he refuses to look at the rim on offense, pump-faking open threes and rushing to pass as soon as the ball hits his hands.
From 2019 to 2022, Maxi averaged over four three-point field goal attempts per game, shooting 36.8% from long-range during that span. This season, he is shooting 26.3% on just two attempts from three per game. Even if improved health allows him to regain some of his former defensive versatility, the Mavericks need him to become more confident on offense if he is to remain a significant part of the rotation.