Drastic times require drastic measures and there’s not much more drastic right now than the Mavericks’ lack of 3-point shooting.
It’s come to the point after Friday’s 106-93 loss at Indiana that the Mavericks might be thinking about heaving fewer shots from beyond the arc.
After the Mavericks went 4-for-29 from long range against the Pacers, Luka Dončić made his feelings clear.
“Right now, we’re just not making shots,” he said. “We have a lot of open shots, we’re just not making them. I don’t know why.
“We just got to maybe attack more, shoot less threes. I think we just got to think paint first, then shoot threes. I took a lot of bad threes. We should think rim first.”
In theory, that makes sense, and after the Mavericks fell apart in the fourth quarter against the Pacers in what had been a back-and-forth game, the numbers suggested that Luka is on to something.
The Mavericks were 4-of-29 (13.8 percent) from 3-point range. They were 1-of-10 in the fourth quarter, when they scratched out only 13 points to lose a game they had tied at 87.
They got outscored 19-6 the rest of the way as the Pacers out-energized the Mavericks.
“We can’t shoot straight from behind the 3-point line – it’s a broken record,” coach Jason Kidd said. “We keep saying this for the last 25 games except for one game where we shoot 70 percent.
“We have to be better. We have to take responsibility at some point that we have to make shots. We’re getting the ball in the paint and making the extra pass. It’s that we’re not making shots. And then transition defense. When we don’t make shots, we don’t get back. Tonight was a perfect case. So that’s just effort and communication and we didn’t do a good job of that tonight.”
The Mavericks gave up two offensive rebounds to start the fourth quarter and then were a step slow defensively, particularly when Phoenix wanted to push the tempo.
It added up to a loss that dropped the Mavericks below .500 at 12-13. They also couldn’t build on Wednesday’s win at Memphis. They have not won two games in a row in nearly a month (Nov. 12 and 15).
And the news could get worse. Dončić tweaked his sore left ankle in the second half and admitted after the game that he “probably shouldn’t have played” after aggravating the injury.
He had 27 points, nine rebounds and nine assists against the Pacers, but no doubt will be monitored closely ahead of Sunday’s game at Oklahoma City.
Meanwhile, Indiana won their third consecutive game, their first three-game win streak of the season.
And, it continued another disturbing trend for the Mavericks, who dropped to 2-7 against Eastern Conference opponents. There was a time not many years back when feasting on inferior competition from the East was a given for the Mavericks.
Not any more as Friday at Gainbridge Fieldhouse showed.
The game was supposed to be filled with emotions as Pacers’ coach Rick Carlisle was set to go against the team he led for 13 seasons. Technically, this will go down as the first meeting between Carlisle and the Mavericks since he parted ways with the organization..
But it wasn’t. After testing positive for COVID-19 after Wednesday’s win against New York, Carlisle is sitting out a few games under the NBA’s health and safety protocols.
So that first face-to-face confrontation will have to wait until Jan. 29 when the Pacers make their only visit to American Airlines Center.
The Pacers didn’t need Carlisle on Friday. They got 24 points and 10 rebounds from Domantas Sabonis, along with 26 points from Caris LeVert, who canned a 3-pointer with 1:40 to play that put the Pacers up 104-93 and ended any hope the Mavericks harbored.
“It sucks right now to be us,” said Kristaps Porzingis, “because we’re fighting, we’re playing hard and trying to do things right. But we still commit mistakes out there . . . and then on top of that we’re shooting catastrophic. It’s hard to win games like that.”
But Porzingis is of the opinion that the Mavericks’ season-long shooting problems are not going to last forever.
“We’ll get out of this,” he said. “That is 100 percent fact. I think it’s only a matter of time until we find that offensive rhythm and start knocking those shots down and getting some more assists for Luka.”
And as for shooting a few less triples and attacking the rim more? That’s something that’s already happening.
“We try to get to the paint,” he said. “That’s one of the goals and that’s why we also get open shots. Everybody sinks in and Luka is distributing. It’s on everybody else to start making those wide-open looks. Once we do that, other teams will be more hesitant to help and it’s going to be a chain reaction in our favor. We’re waiting for that moment.”
Yes, it sounds great in theory.
The execution is the hard part.
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