The Mavericks finished this last week and a half 1-4 and now have a 25-21 record. That drops them to eighth place in the Western Conference. Their lone win came in Atlanta, while they lost to the Lakers, Celtics, Suns, and Kings. Kyrie Irving is out with a thumb sprain and Derrick Jones Jr. missed the Kings game with a wrist sprain.
This was a season-defining stretch for Dallas. They could have come out with at least two or three wins and instead managed just one. They played a struggling Lakers team, caught a Celtics team on the second night of a back-to-back, and got the Suns against a wall at home, all of which they lost. The team has really shown who they are over this last stretch, which is a group of guys with no real leadership whose effort comes and goes with making shots.
The team is a mismatch defensively at every position besides center and there is almost no creation outside of Doncic, Irving, and Dante Exum. Being hurt has not helped but even when this team is fully healthy they only look good when shots are falling. Despite this, this season has not and will not be a disappointment. They are still above .500 and this bad stretch was bound to happen because the team was clearly not complete when the year started. The concerns about a backup big or extra point guard or even a starting caliber wing addition can be addressed at the deadline or in the off-season. The reason this stretch was so disappointing was not a personnel let-down, but rather because the effort they gave underlines a bigger issue in the organization.
The roster may need work, but the leadership needs an overhaul. It is clear this team does not have a firm direction or identity, and now is as good a time as any to make a change. Jason Kidd is not the right coach for a Doncic-led team, and Dallas needs to admit their mistake and move on. They have put tissue in a broken nose too many times and the root of the bleeding needs to be addressed. Until then, they are going to keep finding ways to lose.
Currently Failing: The coaching and the defense
There have been two glaring deficiencies in the last five games, the first of which bleeds into the second. Firstly, the coaching has been questionable at its very best. Jason Kidd has had his share of mishaps throughout his time in Dallas but let’s look at two specific mistakes that cost Dallas two separate games.
The first came in the most recent game at home against Sacramento. Dallas was down 118-113 with 16 seconds left, the Kings to inbound. At this point, both teams were coming out of a timeout, so substitutions could be made. Dereck Lively had five fouls, but Jason Kidd elected to have him in the game in an “immediate foul” situation. Not only was this decision ill-advised, but he did not even have him guarding the ball, which resulted in this series of events:
The Mavericks wasted nearly six seconds in a two-possession game because Lively did not want to foul out. The Kings ended up missing both free throws, which means Dallas had 10 seconds to make up two scores instead of 16.
The second lowlight of this past week came in an embarrassment at the hands of the Phoenix Suns. The opening of the game was great. The Mavericks looked like a team trying to get right, and with 7:28 left in the second quarter, they had an 88 percent chance to win, according to ESPN. They led 48-32 at the time, and by the time the Mavericks’ took another timeout, Dallas trailed 78-63 with 6:30 left in the third. That is a 46-15 run by Phoenix throughout 12:58 of game time with no decision to regroup.
This feeds directly into the poor defense that Dallas has played recently. It starts with Kidd’s philosophy to let guys play through mistakes and waterfalls down until it boils over with frustration and tired legs. When you have a player like Doncic, it is easy to do things untraditionally because he can solve so many problems. However, when you’re fouling almost 21 times per game and letting opponents shoot 53 percent as Dallas has for five games, timeouts are crucial to rest and reset your defense. Sometimes a coach’s pride in their play style overpowers logical thinking, and certainly, Kidd’s stubbornness to change his thinking has hurt Dallas a lot in the last week and a half.
Extra Credit: Luka Doncic
The words left to describe Doncic that haven’t been used already are scarce. He set a franchise record, State Farm Arena record, season-high, and career-high for points in a game when he posted 73 in Dallas’ win over Atlanta. It is an individual performance like that one that reminds you to not take for granted what he does on a nightly basis. Only four players have matched or exceeded that point total in the history of the NBA. It is easy to get lost in the anger and frustration that this team incites with their sub-par play at times, but sports are supposed to be fun. That performance was everything good about sports and one that will never be forgotten.