Mavericks’ biggest need is clear as ever after potential season-crushing loss

Dallas Mavericks, Tim Hardaway Jr.
Dallas Mavericks, Tim Hardaway Jr. / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Despite making one of the more amazing midseason turnarounds in NBA history, the Dallas Mavericks have likely put themselves out of championship contention, as Dallas suffered a Game 3 loss to the Boston Celtics by a score of 106-99 on Wednesday night. Dallas had their best chance to make this series interesting in Game 3, as the Mavericks were able to get off to a solid offensive start in the first half through their ability to attack the rim with Kristaps Porzingis being out of Boston's lineup due to injury.

However, the Mavericks were not able to sustain this level of offensive production throughout the rest of the contest as Dallas got minimal offensive output from those not named Kyrie Irving, Luka Doncic, or Dereck Lively II.

The Celtics were able to win the game in the third quarter once their dynamic shooters started to convert on more 3-point attempts, as they outscored Dallas 35-19 in the third quarter.

Mavericks’ need for a third scorer is clear after potential season-crushing loss

Despite coming back from down nearly 20 points in the fourth quarter, the Mavericks weren't able to get over the hump and take the lead at any point in the second half, as Dallas' need for a third ball handler and scorer was as readily apparent as ever after Luka Doncic fouled out with a little under five minutes left in the game.

Dallas head coach Jason Kidd made the questionable decision to insert Tim Hardaway Jr. into the contest after Doncic fouled out despite Jaden Hardy and Dante Exum having performed better all playoffs long, as Hardaway Jr.'s 19 minutes in Game 3 were a microcosm of his abysmal shooting performance in these playoffs.

Hardaway Jr. went 0-5 from the field and was a -16 on the night for Dallas, which is not an idealistic stat line in a make-or-break Game 3 in the NBA Finals, especially when you take into consideration that Hardaway Jr. was Dallas' third leading scorer in the regular season and is Dallas' third highest paid player as well.

While Dallas has found some high-level role players for years to come in this postseason run with the likes of P.J. Washington, Derrick Jones Jr., Dereck Lively II, and Daniel Gafford all proving that they will be essential pieces in Dallas, the Mavs still lack a definitive third scorer and a real marksman from 3-point range with Hardaway Jr. playing as poorly as he has this postseason.

While the Mavericks may have the spacing to generate good enough 3-point looks for their role players against other squads, this Boston team will force teams to have to create their own space to generate open looks against their air-tight and switch-light defense, and Dallas doesn't have a ball handler or shooter capable of doing that on their roster at a consistent enough rate to be able to hang with the Celtics in these Finals outside of their two stars.

Now down 3-0, the Mavericks' front office will likely soon set their sights on how to find a versatile third ball handler and shooter this coming offseason when one takes into consideration that no team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in NBA Playoffs history, but you never know what can happen as maybe the Mavericks are somehow the team set to break that trend against this electric Celtics' squad.

For more on the Dallas Mavericks throughout the rest of the NBA Finals as well as this coming offseason, stay tuned as we will have you covered.