In the last three weeks, the Mavericks are 3-8 and four of those losses came to teams under .500.

They are one game ahead of 11th-place Oklahoma City in the crowded house that is the Western Conference standings. And 1½ games behind New Orleans for fourth.

The easy breakdown of what is going on with the Mavericks right now is that they are in the doldrums. They won seven games in a row during the holidays, but their New Year’s Resolution must have been to torture fans because they have been hard on the eyes since early January.

And yet, they remain firmly in the mix of everything when it comes to the big picture.

“I don’t know if it’s a funk,” coach Jason Kidd said after the Mavericks’ 127-126 loss to Washington on Tuesday. “It’s just a game of runs. You got to play all 82. The judgment is more at the end of the season, as much as after each game.”

And, of course, the Mavericks are learning a lot about themselves during these tough times – most notably that sticking together is paramount when things are not going well.

And until the defense improves, the Mavericks’ collective mood is going to be challenged.

“At the end of the day, you can’t give up 127 points to a team like that,” said Spencer Dinwiddie. “You really can’t give up 127 to any team.

“We shouldn’t be in a game like that with them. They’ve got two max players and one (Kristaps Porzingis) is hurt. We should be able to stop them enough to where our 126 points beats their 125-or-less. That’s really all it comes down to. We’ve just got to be better in that respect.”

And the fact that it came against 21-26 Washington rubbed salt in the wound as far as Dinwiddie was concerned.

“They’re not playing for nothing,” he said. “They’re just coming out here firing. They’ve got people coming off the bench just firing, because at the end of the day for them, it’s a showcase. They’re over there trying to get paid, but they aren’t trying to play winning basketball.

“For a team (like the Mavericks) that has real aspirations and has an MVP, a team that went to the Conference Finals last year, we have to be better. Not offensively, because we had 126. That can win you a lot of games. But defensively, it’s not just one more stop. Really, we should have 15 more stops.”

But, as mentioned above, keeping the faith and putting in the hours in the gym is really the only way that the Mavericks are going to reverse course and start making up ground for their just-completed 1-3 homestand (and the nine overall home losses).

“There’s a lot of positives,” Kidd said. “Josh (Green) is coming back, he played well. Davis (Bertans) gave us some positive minutes. And you look at the small ball, it’s generating a lot of points for us.

“It’s just that we’re not getting stops. And so that’s something that we got to look at. I don’t see it as a funk. I think it’s just a matter of making timely shots and getting timely stops and right now we’re just not doing that.”

Here’s a few other takeaways from the loss to Washington:

TECHNICALLY SPEAKING: Not sure what else Luka Dončić could do to elevate the Mavericks higher. He had 41 points and 15 rebounds. He also had a late steal that could have been a game-changer had he made both free throws when he was fouled after his theft. But the biggest concern with Luka is the technical foul he got with 9:48 left in the third quarter. That brings him to 11 for the season, although he believes Tuesday’s should be rescinded. “I don’t think I deserve them,” he said. “I heard the same exact thing that I said, somebody else said, and no tech. So, I don’t think I deserved them.” Them meaning several of the techs over many games. A reminder: when a player gets 16 technical fouls, he must serve a one-game suspension. Luka has 11 with 33 games to go.

CARRYING HIS WEIGHT: Dinwiddie has been really solid lately and had 20 points and a game-best eight assists against the Wizards. In the last nine games, he has averaged 20.4 points and shot 37.7 percent from three-point land. And it’s worth noting that the potential game-winning shot with under 5 seconds left was designed to go to Dinwiddie. But the pass from Luka never reached him.

HIT THE ROAD, JACK: The Mavericks now have more home losses (nine) than road wins (eight). That needs to change before the All-Star break. They play eight of their last 11 games on the road before the league takes its siesta. Most of the competition is bunched right around the Mavericks in the West standings. No time like the coming three weeks to draw a line in the sand and turn things around.

Twitter: @ESefko

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