Mavs Fall To Suns: The Recipe For Failure
Through one quarter of the season, the Dallas Mavericks ’ biggest weaknesses are no secret. The backcourt struggles mightily keeping guards in front of them and the entire team gives up far too many open three-pointers.
Our Chuck Perry did a wonderful job using advanced stats to establish much of this in Mavs Donuts that served as a pregame look at Friday ... and beyond.
Friday the Mavs faced a team perhaps more suited to expose those aforementioned weaknesses than any in the NBA. The starting guards for the Phoenix Suns are quick, versatile and absolutely relentless. Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe put a ton of pressure on any defense; “In terms of quickness, attacking, skill, there’s no team in the league that has this many great attackers at the point-guard position,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said in the pregame. “These are the slice-and-dice brothers.''
And the Mavericks’ guard rotation was ill-suited to meet the challenge. Jameer Nelson can show bursts of quickness with the ball in his hand, but opposing guards have been leaving him in the dust all year. And as great as Monta Ellis has been offensively, he has been just as culpable on defense.
Sliced. And diced.
"We've been having problems throughout the year containing the ball,'' Tyson Chandler said. "We've got to do a better job."
The constant attacking of Dragic and Bledsoe sets the Suns up to take advantage of the other big weakness of the Mavericks. Dallas came into the game giving up more made three-point shots than any other team in the NBA, allowing 10.1. The Suns reached 10 made three-pointers against the Mavericks … IN THE FIRST HALF. In total, the Suns made 12 three-pointers.
Phoenix led 40-27 entering the second quarter. It was the most points the Mavericks’ allowed in a quarter all season.
"They had their way with us,'' TY said, "getting in the paint and causing problems. From that, they had wide-open jump shots."
Impressively, the Mavericks have been so good in other areas that they have been very successful this season (15-6 after this loss) despite a few pretty glaring defensive weaknesses. Friday, however, was a showcase of the Mavericks’ current limitations.
Dragic, in particular, feasted on the Mavericks’ defense. He basically lived in the paint, getting there with ease and dropping off easy buckets to Phoenix big men. Markieff Morris was the primary beneficiary of this and he finished with 22 points. Having a rim protector like Tyson Chandler helps, but when a guard like Dragic is at the rim so easily he understands how to navigate around Chandler’s presence. Dragic finished the night with 28 points off of 10-of-15 shooting and also had 13 assists.
Eric Bledsoe added 19 points and seven assists and was able to take advantage of being guarded by a fatigued Ellis. While the Suns’ starting backcourt took it to the rim with ease, Gerald Green came off the bench and capitalized on Dallas’ inability to defend the three. Green hit three shots from behind the arc and leaked out into transition for two monster dunks. He finished with 15 momentum-killing points.
The Suns shot over 60 percent for most of the game and finished at 56.6 percent. They made half of the three-pointers they took. There is a lot of talk about how hot teams are shooting against the Mavericks from three and that it is an unsustainable trend. But so many of those three-pointers have been either wide open or lately contested. If that continues don’t expect the regression to be significant.
Again, offensive efficiency was not the problem for Dallas in the loss. Dallas scored at a rate that should have led to a victory. Monta Ellis continued his inspired play, scoring 33 points off of 14-of-22 shooting. His relentless attacking is the only thing that kept the Mavericks in the game at times. Tyson Chandler had another terrific game as well, scoring 15 points and grabbing 18 rebounds.
Those two were quite a pair ...
But these are positives that have very little to do with the outcome of the game. They are things we have come to expect from Ellis and Chandler. We’ve seen Dallas score more points, but they were still very successful against the Suns’ defense. The ease at which the Suns scored was simply too much to overcome. Ellis’ performance was a double-edged sword as well. He kept Dallas in the game with his scoring, but his defensive effort was ineffective. It would be hard to blame him for being fatigued given his current stretch of performances, but he can’t be a threat to give up as many points as he scores.
The fast pace of the Suns also provided a slightly concerning glimpse at the decrease in speed at which Dirk Nowitzki is now able to play at. It looked like he was struggling to find a way to be effective within the pace of the game and he was coming off a night of rest in Milwaukee. Perhaps, it was simply an off-shooting night for Nowitzki, but possible limitations of his effectiveness will soon become a reality.
"I don't think I had one clean look the basket,'' Dirk said. "They didn't leave me much. ... you have to give them credit.''
Even so, Nowitzki’s 2-of-10 performance was not the reason the Mavericks lost. The reasons, the problems, are simple ones. The Mavericks will win games based on their offense alone and they do a lot of good things on defense, but Friday showcased a reality: until these defensive issues are addressed the Mavericks are a flawed team. Until they are addressed -- if they can be -- the Mavs had better hope they don’t lose even the slightest step on offense.
Such as it is:
“The truth is in the West, you go 4-0 on a Eastern trip, you come back home and you’ve made up no ground in the standings. That’s a fact. So there’s no choice but to continue to bear down.” -- Rick Carlisle.
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