Can this team finally put it all together?
“We are close to a breakthrough.” Coach Carlisle said after the teams narrow overtime loss to the Spurs.
And Mavs fans believed him. We could all see the light at proverbial end of the tunnel. But then they came out two nights later and gave up 38 points and we’re down by 17 after one quarter of play.
All of that positive energy after the moral victory in San Antonio had evaporated. Fans are frustrated, and understandably so. This team is wildly inconsistent, looking like a playoff team for stretches, but then following it up by looking like they have never played before.
And it seems their issues change by the game. For instance, against the Spurs the starters were fantastic, but the bench was horrible. In Los Angeles, against the Lakers, it was the complete opposite. The bench was dynamite while the first group was straight up dreadful.
Sometimes they get a good Luka game, but Dennis is bad and vice versa. Sometimes the youngsters have to carry the vets while they’re struggling, other times when the kids struggle, the vets play well. It’s the inability to marry all of these things together that has this team at 2-6. It does feel like they’re close, but can they finally put them all together against the Knicks? We shall see.
Dennis Smith Jr. vs. Frank Ntilikina
These two are always going to be compared to one another, as much as I hate being in the business of comparing such young players. It’s just the nature of the beast when you are selected one after the other in the draft.
Dennis Smith Jr. and Frank Ntilikina are players at similar points in their careers too. Both of them are young point guards trying learn the NBA game and dealing with inconsistency during the process. They play the game very differently. Dennis being the explosive driver and slasher, and frank being the ace defender with steady playmaking skills. But they share the same goal: Make positive contributions while learning in the job.
As we know with Dennis, his season has been a roller coaster. Phoenix, Chicago, and L.A. Being the low points, and Utah, San Antonio, and Minnesota being the highs. But he has to find a way, when the shot isn’t falling or he’s not playing well, to stay engaged in the game and bring energy. He’s struggled with it all year, and Ntilikina will present yet another challenge for him.
Can the Mavs get off to a good start?
Rick Carlisle will be the first one to tell you, games are won and lost in the first quarter. “It’s a first quarter league.” He often says.
So there is no way he can be happy about the Mavs being outscored in six of the eight first quarters, many of them by sizeable margins. Why is it happening? I’m not sure. What can be done to fix it? Other than the deadpan answer “play better,” I’m not sure there are any great answers.
Maybe a lineup change could do them so good, inserting a defensive minded/energy guy like Dorian Finney-Smith or Maxi Kleber into that first group could help. But given Carlisle and his allegiance and trust in his vets, that’s unlikely. Plus, there are some proud men in that locker room and in that lineup whose ego wouldn’t take too kindly to a demotion.
Either way, they have to get it cleaned up if they want to pick themselves up off the mat and get back into playoff contention.
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