There is trouble in paradise.
Well, it’s not exactly paradise but certainly somewhere between Highland Park and Shangri-La. A Dallas Mavericks team that critics alleged would be a mediocre one, possibly barely making the playoffs and with a slew of significant injuries on top of that to boot—for that team to start off 4-1 was admittedly unexpected and inspiring.
Unfortunately the Mavs overall play took a turn for the worse during the third quarter of the Knicks game Friday night and continued well into the first quarter into Saturday’s game against the Charlotte Bobcats. Down as many as 13 points early in the game, the Mavs overcame the deficit in the first quarter to take 55-44 halftime lead. The see-saw continued, ending in a tie and eventually overtime, where the Bobcats continued their second half outrebounding the Mavs and hitting clutch shots to take the game in overtime 101-97. It was the first win against the Mavericks in franchise history for the Bobcats, breaking a 16-game regular season losing streak.
Now it’s one thing to lose to the red-hot Knicks who were 3-0 against good teams, all over .500 and in each game by 10 points or more. They lost to the team with the highest differential between points scored and pointes allowed in the entire NBA.
It’s quite another to lose to the Bobcats and Now the Bobcats surely deserve credit for making progress from last year and to be sure, Kemba Walker, Byron Mullins, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Kemba Walker continued his outstanding play and led the Bobcats with 26 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists. Rookie Michael-Kidd Gilchrist, the second pick in the draft, had a career night with 25 points and 12 rebounds. Byron Mullens tied a career high with 14 rebounds to go with his 7 points. Former Mav Brendan Haywood hit two key shots under the basket near the end of the game and in overtime and while he missed the free throws, Charlotte snagged the offensive rebounds and those would be the springboard for a lead they would never relinquish.
Darren Collison and O. J. Mayo both shot 50% from the floor and accumulated 14 and 22 points respectively.
The team shot very well from 3-point land, including 5-of-8 for Vince Carter—overall 47.4% from downtown.
There were clearly stretches when the Mavericks played well as they built a lead of as many as 15 points. Unfortunately that means they also had meltdowns when leads were reversed.
Most of the Mavs had subpar shooting nights. Even Vince Carter’s 19 points were on 6-of-15 shooting. The games when the Mavs can shoot well, rebound well and not turn the ball over seem elusive.
Individually, the rebounding continues to improve for Brendan Wright and Troy Murphy and if the entire team can raise the bar, that might be a good thing.
Dallas had given up it’s big lead but still had a four-point lead late in the fourth quarter before Brendan Haywood scored underneath and drew a foul. After missing the free throw (now there’s a shock), Charlotte got the offensive rebound and Ramon Sessions tied the score with 2.8 seconds left on a driving layup. When Vince Carter missed a potential game-winner at the buzzer, the game went to overtime.
Amazingly, Haywood again scored and was fouled and again would miss the free throw only to see Charlotte get the offensive rebound AGAIN (déjà vu anyone?), after which Byron Mullens gave the Bobcats a 95-93 lead they would not relinquish.
Overall, the Mavericks were very sloppy with their offensive execution for the second straight night.
When your opponent’s stat line looks like this:
42.1% from the field, 15% on threes and 64.8% from the line, 17 turnovers
and you LOSE that’s quite telling.
The Mavs shot 40.7% and although they shot well from downtown and at the charity striped, committed 19 turnovers and were outrebounded again 53-43.
Only Collison and Mayo shot 50% and even Chris Kaman, who made only 5 field goal attempts, had his most unproductive night as a Mav. He and Brendan Wright both shot poorly for the first time this season.
The Mavericks have moments when they look like a great team and some players are putting up good numbers almost every night. However, coordinating as a team is proving to be more of a challenge and the team continues to turn the ball over and lose the battle of the boards nearly every night.
Some of this could be the hot-and-cold of trying to integrate new players into a new system but that doesn’t explain veteran big men (Elton Brand) struggling from the floor or being outrebounded nearly every night. The contributions of Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion and Jason Kidd and to some degree, Jason Terry, are well documented but perhaps what is missing is more than their stat lines show. These guys are leaders who provide a steady veteran hand and in that regard, the speedy return of the Matrix and the eventual return of Dirk are even more valuable.
Vince Carter has done a good job stepping up in that role but even he is struggling from the floor. Kidd in particular is one of the greatest floor generals ever. While replacing him with Darren Collison is a statistical upgrade as well as giving the Mavericks an up-tempo and penetrating offense they’ve lacked without J. J. Barea, there is little doubt the Mavericks would be better off if Kidd had remained with the team even if he played relatively few minutes. As it happens, that is exactly how his role with the Knicks has evolved.
It isn’t time to panic just yet and I don’t think the Mavs will collapse but they have yet to play a good team other than the Knicks and they lost convincingly. Their wins have not been against good teams and both of their other losses were against teams with a losing record. The schedule doesn’t start to get tough right away, which has given hope for a Dirk-less team to stay competitive from the beginning but the Mavs simply have to start playing more consistently night in and night out and protect the ball. They clearly have the talent on the roster to succeed.
Rick Carlisle is one of the best coaches in the NBA and I have confidence things will turn around. It simply may take time. On any given night when Mayo and Kaman alone continue to perform the way they have nearly every night, the Mavs should do fine minus handing the game over via turnovers or being outrebounded by 10+ boards.
The Minnesota Timberwolves minus Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and possibly J. J. Barea will be in Dallas Monday night. Without their two best players this is a game the Mavericks must win to be taken seriously. Unfortunately the Twolves are 4-1 without their big stars and getting it done as a team. Let’s hope they run into the same wall the 4-1 Mavs ran into….
Full preview coming up on The Smoking Cuban.
Tags: Byron Mullens Chris Kaman Dallas Mavericks Darren Collison Dirk Nowitzki DirkNowitzki Elton Brand J.J. Barea Jason Kidd Jason Terry Kemba Walker Kevin Love Mavs Michael Kidd-gilchrist O. J. Mayo Rick Carlisle Ricky Rubio Shawn Marion Vince Carter