The NBA season is a long one. Over about seven months of the regular season, players are constantly working hard in games and practice to perfect their craft. So when the All-Star Break comes around, players take advantage of the rest, and try and stay off their feet. Moreover, whenever your team gets nine days off in a row, a little rust in jump-shooting and overall game-time chemistry is to be expected.
That was exactly the case for the Mavs on Friday as they came out fairly rusty, and fell at the Minnesota Timberwolves 97-84.
When you’re talking about NBA "rust," the term primarily applies to simply shooting the basketball, and for the Mavs, things could not have been much worse. As a team, Dallas shot a decent enough 42 percent, but that average was only saved by the combination of Seth Curry and Harrison Barnes.
Curry had a great individual performance, scoring a career-high 31 points on 13-17 shooting, that included 3-6 from downtown. Barnes meanwhile shot a solid 9-17 on his way to 20 points, to go along with six boards.
The rest of the Mavs team however, combined to score just 33 points and shoot 23 percent from the field. In fact, only Barnes and Curry scored in double-figures for the Mavs, with Dirk and Devin Harris as the next highest scorers with eight apiece.
Said Barnes: "We as a team just have to do a better job of -- when a guy is rolling like (Curry was) -- giving him more support.”
The Timberwolves, on the other hand, were led by their young duo of Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, who scored 26 and 27 respectively. KAT also dominated the glass with 18 boards, with Wiggins adding seven of his own.
Wiggins began the scoring early for Minnesota, notching 16 points in the first quarter alone, while Towns got off to a bit of a slower start, but came on strong and put the Mavs' comeback attempt to bed with a powerful second-half performance.
"The problem we had tonight was turnovers that led to catastrophic situations that are unguard-able," coach Rick Carlisle said. "And look, we’ve got to get the ball in the basket more."
As much as any of it, this was yet another case of the undermanned Mavs frontcourt getting dominated in all facets of the game.
Now, there is promise there ... for Saturday.
The hope is that newly-acquired budding standout Nerlens Noel, set to make his Dallas debut tonight against the Pelicans, will provide some much-needed improvement in that area of the floor.
It won’t be an easy test for Noel in his opening act as a Maverick however, as "The Tyson Chandler Starter Kit" will be charged with slowing down the All-Star duo of Anthony Davis and Boogie Cousins.
Expect more rust of a different sort, to be honest. Noel will be soon joined by Dallas' freshly-signed 10-day kids, scoring point guard Quinn Cook and 6-8 forward Ben Bentil.
That is your direction now, and why not?
Friday's loss drops the Mavs to 22-35 overall, and 8-21 on the road, as they still talk of the sneak into the eighth spot in the playoff race. But that's mostly just talk. The reality is about building-block rust, and 10-day contracts and noticing that immediately after the loss Dallas had slipped from the No. 7 draft lottery slot down to the more advantageous No. 5 slot.