Mavericks defensive concerns become reality as Timberwolves spoil Kyrie's home debut

Dallas Mavericks, Kyrie Irving
Dallas Mavericks, Kyrie Irving / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks wanted to get Luka Doncic a co-star, so they made a blockbuster trade for Kyrie Irving. The eight-time All-Star came at a bargain price for a superstar, but it still cost Dallas two starters and three draft picks. They parted with their best perimeter defender in Dorian Finney-Smith, and their backcourt starter next to Luka, Spencer Dinwiddie, to land Kyrie.

The departure of Doe-Doe coupled with the Mavs' struggles this season had fans worried about the team's defense. Irving is just 6’2 and is known for his fluctuating defensive intensity. Trading away one of the team’s best defenders without getting a plus option in return caused plenty of alarm.

The Mavericks held their own defensively in Kyrie’s first three games, but those worries popped up in his home debut. Dallas allowed 33 points in the first quarter, 65 in the opening half, and 100 after 36 minutes in a 124-121 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. It was an ugly performance for 36 minutes that will further induce panic in supporters’ minds, despite an impressive fourth-quarter comeback that fell just short.

Dallas Mavericks defensive concerns become reality as Timberwolves spoil Kyrie Irving's home debut

Minnesota shot just 31.0 percent from 3-point range over 29 attempts on Monday night. Those numbers would suggest the Mavericks' defense was strong, but the Timberwolves shot 57.8 percent from the field as Dallas allowed way too many easy buckets. Anthony Edwards led the way with 32 points as Minnesota got into the paint and made the in-close looks repeatedly.

Rudy Gobert dominated inside at the American Airlines Center. He had 21 points on nine of nine shooting from the field with 14 rebounds. The Timberwolves dominated the rebounding battle, and their work inside was the difference on Feb. 13.

The Mavericks are going to play small and spread the floor, but they need to figure out how to hold their own on the glass and in the paint. Dallas allowed too many rebounds and easy buckets on Monday night it cost them a crucial game in the standings.

Luka Doncic did his best to keep the Mavericks in the game on Monday night. He finished with 33 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, and one steal in 36 minutes of action. The 23-year-old went ten of 20 from the field and 11 of 15 on his free throws, but Dallas was outscored by 12 with Luka on the floor.

Kyrie Irving had 36 points, five rebounds, six assists, two steals, and one block in his Mavericks home debut. The 30-year-old superstar did not get hot until the fourth quarter, but it was too little too late as Dallas fell to 31-28 on the season with the loss.

Irving put on a show in the final period with 26 points as he continues to lead the league in fourth-quarter scoring. It was the most points scored by a Mavericks player in a quarter this season and the third most in team history. Kyrie gave fans a glimpse of his special talent, and the best is still yet to come from the Mavericks new superstar duo, so stay tuned.

The Mavs trailed by three with 14 seconds remaining, but neither superstar took the final shot. They made multiple passes to each other before Irving turned the ball over. The duo is still figuring out how to play together and maximize each other on the floor.

The Timberwolves secured the season series with Monday’s win. They had split the first two games, but Minnesota held on to win the decisive third game to lock up the head-to-head tiebreaker. Minnesota trails Dallas by just 0.5 games in the standings after the contest, so that tiebreaker could be massive.

The Dallas Mavericks head back on the road for their final game before the All-Star break on Wednesday night in Denver against the top-seeded Nuggets. Can they get their defense figured out? Will Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving send a statement to the Nuggets in the Mile High City? It will be a cannot miss contest on Feb. 15, so please tune in and enjoy the game.

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