Mavericks: Why Dallas must alter their rotation to end first quarter woes

Dallas Mavericks Luka Doncic Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Dallas Mavericks Luka Doncic Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

The Dallas Mavericks have lost two straight and five of their last seven games. It has been a brutal stretch with losses to the lottery-bound Rockets and Kings on either end. Luka Doncic has struggled from 3-point range over the last seven but is still producing otherworldly numbers.

Many issues have plagued the Mavericks. Their defense has been porous. They are averaging the third-fewest assists per game since April 6. It seems like Dallas is always playing from behind too.

The Mavs have trailed at the end of the first quarter in six of their last seven games. The only other game was tied after one, but the Spurs built a seven-point lead with just over three minutes left. Let us take a closer look at how bad the Mavericks have been in the first quarter before looking at one way to fix the issue.

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Dallas Mavericks have struggled in the first quarter

The Mavs have not been fantastic in the first quarter all season. They sit 20th in plus/minus at negative-0.7, but those numbers have plummeted during their last seven games.

Dallas has been outscored by 2.9 points per game in the first quarter, which ranks 27th in the league. They have a defensive rating of 118.2 and an offensive rating of just 107.1 to give them a negative-11.1 net rating in the first quarter since April 6. The Mavericks have been bad on both ends of the floor in the opening period as they have lost five of seven.

How can Dallas Mavericks fix their first-quarter struggles?

The simplest solution could be making a shift in the rotation. Kristaps Porzingis noted his preference was to play longer stretches after the Mavs loss to the Suns on Feb. 1, so coach Rick Carlisle shifted the rotation of his stars. Luka Doncic went from playing the entire first and third quarters to being rested in the middle of those periods to give Porzingis the longer stretches. The Mavericks went 19-9 before this seven-game skid, so it seemed like the change worked.

Since making the move on Feb. 3, Dallas has been outscored by 0.8 points per game in the first quarter, which is below their season average. They also have a 115.6 defensive rating and a negative-2.2 net rating in the opening period over that stretch. For context, the Mavericks had a negative-1.4 net rating in the first with Doncic playing the longer stretches, but that included the first nine games without KP and the period where the Mavericks dealt with massive COVID issues.

Last season, Luka played 9.9 first-quarter minutes per game and averaged 9.0 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.9 assists. The Mavericks outscored the opposition by an average of 1.7 points per game with Doncic on the floor in the first quarter. This season. he is down to 9.7 minutes. The production has dropped to 7.8 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 2.5 assists, but Dallas has outscored the opposition by 0.4 points.

During their last seven games, the Mavericks were ahead three times when Luka went to the bench, but they were outscored in all three opening quarters.

Coach Carlisle should shift back to playing Luka Doncic the entire first and third quarters. He has used him more in the third in recent games. That was Luka’s best statistical quarter last season. The 22-year-old goes off when he is playing longer stretches.

Dallas may have to adjust to make KP happy, but the playoffs are approaching. The Mavericks need every win if they are going to avoid the play-in tournament. Now is the time to use their optimal rotation feelings aside.

Keep an eye on how the Dallas Mavericks perform in the first quarter going forward. They need to be better if they are going to move up in the standing and make a deep playoff run. Stay tuned.

Next. Does it matter if Doncic and Porzingis are close?