Takeaway from Dallas Mavericks loss to Pelicans: 2. Protecting the rim
The Mavs struggled to rebound and protect the rim in the playoffs last year, despite reaching the conference finals. They added Christian Wood and JaVale McGee to mitigate those issues, but Dallas could not stop shots in the paint on Tuesday night.
New Orleans has attempted the fewest 3-pointers in the league thus far. They want to get inside and score at the rim, and the Pelicans did that at will early and often against the Mavericks. Having three starters out did not impact New Orleans as they scored 40 in the first 12 minutes on the back of getting easy buckets at the rim.
The Pelicans shot 57.9 percent from the field on Tuesday night, and the Mavs need to be better at protecting the rim. Dallas upped their intensity and did better over the final 36 minutes but they cannot afford those slow starts and giving up easy shots at the rim in a crowded Western Conference where every game will matter.
Maxi Kleber was the Mavs' best rim protector and most versatile defender in New Orleans. Expect head coach Jason Kidd to turn to the veteran big man when Dallas needs a stop this season, but he is not a shot stopper at the cup. The Pels got hot from 3-point range late, but it was the lack of rim protection that was most concerning for Dallas in the disappointing loss.