The 3-7 Dallas Mavericks came into Thursday night’s contest against the 4-6 Utah Jazz on the back end of a back-to-back set. They traveled to Utah after a much needed win at home against the Wizards to snap their six game losing streak. Some would call this a scheduled loss but the Mavs know they can’t afford to be that complacent with their slow start, except that is exactly what they did in their 117-102 loss to the Jazz.
First Quarter Blues
The Mavs have been notoriously bad in the first and third quarters going back to last year. Last season, the Mavs ranked 26th in the NBA with 25 points scored in the first quarter and 13th with 27 opponent points allowed. This season the Mavs are 11th in the NBA with 28 points scored in the first but 28th in opponents points allowed with 31. Although the spread during both seasons is only two or three points, it highlights the Mavs bigger problem of starting the games and second halves slow and letting their opponents start fast.
Thursday against the Jazz was much of the same. Dallas had it close until Utah pulled away halfway through the first. With four minutes to go in the first, the score was 21-16 in favor of Utah. The Mavs would proceed to miss four straight shots and turn the ball over three times. This resulted in the Jazz heading into the second with a 30-18 lead. The momentum from the first helped Utah double the Mavs score less than two minutes into the second quarter. Hard to crawl out of holes that big against potential playoff teams in the West.
Dallas and Utah came into tonight averaging 24 assists per game, putting them in the middle of the NBA. The Jazz doubled the Mavs assist total finishing with 30 to the Mavs 14. Some of the Mavs lack of assists is due to the sets that Carlisle is running for both Harrison Barnes and Wes Matthews on the post and extended post. Matthews was given the ball in the post against Donovan Mitchell multiple times tonight and he failed to score on his forced shots more than once.
The problem with Coach Carlisle calling these types of low-post isolation plays is that the rest of the team is forced to watch, and most of the time just stand there, as the guys try to make something happen. It is counter productive to the three point shooting offense that Dallas is trying to adopt. It slows the ball down and leads to guys just standing and not moving, thus creating less open catch and shoot situations. Plus, it is ugly to watch most of the time. Mavs fans would like to see less Matthews isolation post ups and more Matthews catch and shoot threes.
Harrison Still Finding His Way
Last year Dennis Smith Jr. was the beacon of hope for the future and Harrison Barnes was the steady, guiding light in the season’s darkness. Barnes was the one the Mavs leaned on in close games and when Dallas desperately needed a basket. With the addition of Dončić and Jordan, it only made sense that Barnes’ usage and therefore scoring would most likely take a small dip. But after Barnes missed all of training camp and a few games at the start of the year, his scoring contributions and efficiency are taking a little too long to get back up to par.
Last year, he averaged 19 points while shooting 45% from the field, 36% from three, and 83% from the free throw line. Coming into the game, Barnes was averaging 15 points per game while shooting 37% from the field, 31% from three, and 71% at the free throw line. Against the Jazz, he finished with 14 points while shooting 30% from the field and 40% from three while making all four of his free throws. A little rust is to be expected from Barnes but the Mavs, who desperately need wins so they don’t fall too far behind in the West, really need him to be a little more efficient with his opportunities.
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