The Dallas Mavericks lived by three and unfortunately died by the three in a 109-99 loss to the LA Clippers last night.
The Mavs connected on 41% of their attempts, but missed three in a row with less than two minutes left in the game facing a seven-point deficit.
The defense stepped up and did it’s part, causing two Clipper misses along with a timely Maxi Kleber offensive board, but the shots didn’t fall and LA upped its record to an impressive 7-0 on the second night of a back-to-back.
The Mavs found their shooting stroke, or did they?
Dallas canned 17/41 attempts from beyond the arc, led by Tim Hardaway Jr.’s 5/9 performance in 30 minutes and closing duties off the bench.
Jalen Brunson connected on both of his long-range bombs and Luka Doncic hit 4/11 while recording a 25 point, 16 assist, 10 rebound triple-double.
Kristaps Porzingis didn’t see a shot he didn’t like, going 3/7 from deep and burying one from the logo.
The Mavs shot a respectable 3/7 on three-point attempts in the final frame, but three consecutive misfires during crunch time doomed them.
The misses cover up a deeper underlying problem though.
Dallas can’t defend down the stretch
The team as constructed doesn’t have an option to stop top-tier wings, especially when it matters most.
Kawhi Leonard had his way working off screens and in the paint while maneuvering around Dorian Finney-Smith and Josh Richardson with ease, scoring nine points in the fourth quarter while finishing with 22 points, four assists and seven rebounds.
Both players are no slouch on defense, but neither have the combination of strength and size to contend with him driving into the paint or quickness when he pulls up.
The Mavs hold a defensive rating of 113 (24th in the league) so far throughout the season, but that number jumps to 120.3 (26th) in clutch time moments of games.
With a net rating of -6.1 in the clutch, Dallas is close to breaking even with Luka Magic making its usual appearances, but need a go-to stopper when the time comes to give the Mavs a fighting chance when it comes to elite offensive talents.
The Mavs should make a move to add a new starter
The Dallas starters had a pretty poor performance outside of Doncic’s triple-double and KP’s 22 points, seven rebounds and one block.
The usually active Kleber failed to make much of an impact with three points on his lone make from distance.
Richardson added some defensive tenacity with a block and two steals while tasked with guarding PG for large portions of the game, but was unable to hit from deep on three tries and seemed out of rhythm on offense.
DFS was meh, but with THJ catching fire, he was relegated to the bench for the ending.
Timmy finished with 21 points on 8/12 shooting from the field with five triples to boot in 30 minutes.
Luka and KP have caught fire as of late, but without another 2-way minded cohort to chip in on both ends of the floor, Dallas may struggle to defend multifaceted scoring teams or score with offensive powerhouses when role players aren’t hitting their shots.
The Mavs don’t have a tremendous amount of assets to give up and have done well drafting and signing players to team-friendly deals so it would hurt to see someone go.
With that being said, a trade or free agent signing may be in order to boost the Mavs’ overall firepower to contender status, whether midseason or once the playoffs have passed.
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