After the upsetting loss to the Phoenix Suns, the Dallas Mavericks now have two options for the rest of the season: keep going and hope ignoring the issues will make them go away or make a drastic change.
In some ways, the feeling after this loss is just as bad as during last season’s lowest points. Maybe that’s because this team is markedly better, or because Luka Doncic in general is playing at a higher level this season - or maybe it’s because it feels like they could have won if they had had the right approach.
They started out well, vibes decent, hustle good, Luka Doncic performing. But a 16 point lead in the first half became a 23 point loss after the fourth, and in between, the Mavs did not respond as a winning team.
A winning team, led by the coach and the main players, would have come out after halftime with an approach of getting stops on defense. That’s really it, because the Mavs have a good offensive machine, when it works. But this machine failed to get going at points as well, and it led to uncharacteristic turnovers when it mattered the most.
A winning team, led by a coach, would have slowed the game down for his players, broken it down into smaller intervals, where the goal is to win each one. Get stops. He would have taken time-outs to stop runs and be emotionally present to calm down players who were too much in their feelings. Help them fuel it into something positive: hustle, points, let’s show them what we’re made of.
A winning team, led by a superstar in the right frame of mind, would have put his head down and taken the ball to the rim. Every time there were noise, complaining, hanging heads and fans heckling, he would have reminded his team what matters: to focus. To keep their eye on the prize.
And without that happening, we saw a chaotic game, where the Mavericks had no control and let everything get to them. A team that seems without leadership when it matters.
It’s easy to be a leader and have good vibes when you’re winning. But who steps up when the going gets tough? That’s when a group or a team needs a leader. When everyone’s distracted or passive or in their own head, chaos is the result.
How the Mavericks respond to this loss (and the other bad losses this month), will show us exactly who they are as a team.
A winning team will use this as motivation, will learn from mistakes and quietly refuse to let this kind of thing repeat itself.
A losing team will make excuses. And there are plenty to pick from. Bad injury luck, not time enough on court together. Referee bias. Bad schedule. But that won’t get you anywhere. All teams have issues, all teams suffer through things. It’s how they approach the hard times that makes a winning team.
At this point, we could talk about trades, adding players or exchanging coaches. But I like to talk from the team perspective, and the players have no influence on these things (except for maybe a couple of the stars if they speak up). And the truth is, neither do we. We can complain until we’re blue in our faces, but it won’t change anything.
What the players and team do have in their control is approach and effort. Do you choose to take this as a challenge to show that you can accomplish much more than what we saw in this game (and the game before)?
Or do you make excuses and keep going, hoping that things will work out by ignoring the issues?
That’s the difference between a winning and a losing team, and the Mavericks have about two days to figure out who they want to be.