It may come as a surprise to some that the Dallas Mavericks have the best record in the NBA when leading after the first quarter at a perfect 19-0.
But unfortunately for the Mavs, during their last seven games, they’ve won the first quarter just once, lost it five times and tied it on another occasion. And that may explain why the Mavs have stumbled to only a 2-5 record during that period of time.
Two days after losing Sunday’s first quarter (22-20) and ultimately the game (121-107) to a Sacramento Kings’ squad that had dropped nine straight contests, coach Rick Carlisle explained the laundry list of factors that go into trying to come out of the dressing room and set the game’s tempo right away.
“There are several things that go on when you don’t play well,” Carlisle said following Tuesday’s practice. “Against Sac our shot-making wasn’t great to start the game — that put us in a bit of a hole. We had some defensive mistakes that hurt us, and we got into a pretty big deficit.
“We got it back with a chance — I think Timmie (Hardaway Jr.) had a shot at the end of the quarter. If he would have made it we would have won the quarter by one. The answer is when we don’t win first quarters usually it’s a combination of things, but what’s got to be there is our level of force and intensity, and the last couple of games we can just do better.”
*The Mavs’ recent slide south started with a 102-93 loss to Houston on April 7. They lost the first quarter in that game, 24-23.
*On April 8, the Mavs lost the first quarter during a game against Milwaukee, 31-29, but rallied to upend the Bucks, 116-101.
*During a 119-117 loss to San Antonio on April 11, the Mavs and Spurs fought to a 26-26 standstill after the first quarter.
*Back on April 12, the Philadelphia 76ers outscored the Mavs, 30-26, in the first quarter en route to claiming a 113-95 victory.
*The Mavs overcame losing the first quarter to Memphis, 34-32, last Wednesday and went on to defeat the Grizzlies, 114-113.
*Last Friday the New York Knicks stormed out of the gates and outscored the Mavs, 34-25, in the first quarter on their way to a 117-109 triumph over Dallas.
The Mavs (30-26) hope to put their first-quarter woes behind them when they entertain the Detroit Pistons (18-40) on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at American Airlines Center. And guard Jalen Brunson said those first-quarter issues are “very fixable” if the Mavs just concentrate fully on the task at hand.
“I don’t think it’s one particular thing,” Brunson said. “I think we just need to be together out there.”
Brunson noted that the Mavs had carved out a season-high five-game winning streak just before encountering this latest skid.
“We’re just a little loose, but that can happen when you have a good winning streak,” Brunson said. “You can start to get comfortable, but we just got to re-focus, get back to doing what we do and most importantly sticking together.
“We can’t lose focus and we can’t grow apart right now. We got to just keep sticking together and keep finding ways to get better.”
Brunson added that the two days with no games the Mavs have had since losing Sunday’s contest to the Kings and playing Wednesday’s game against the Pistons have served as a time for them to do some reflections and get back in the proper mental frame of mind.
“We’ve got to keep doing the things that we’ve done in the past,” Brunson said. “We can’t start thinking of new things do to and we can’t be complacent with doing the same thing over and over and over again.
“We just got to keep being who we are, staying tough-minded and just trying to figure out ways to get better and get wins.”
The Mavs believe playing with a sense of urgency for 48 minutes is a start to helping solve their recent problems, instead of constantly having to dig themselves out of an early first-quarter hole.
“It’s a mindset that’s got to translate to physical disposition, and we’ve simply got to do better,” Carlisle said. “Everything’s on the table at this point.
“If there’s lineup changes that I think will help, then we’ll look at them.”
With a game Wednesday against Detroit and two games Thursday and Saturday against the Los Angeles Lakers, is there a possible lineup change on the horizon for the Mavs?
“As we used to say when I was in TV — stay tuned,” Carlisle said. “We’re in a spot now where we’re going into a very busy month. We (have) 16 games in, I don’t know, 28 days. It’s a lot.
“Today’s practice was much needed. And again, we’ve got to take today and translate it into tomorrow and then into Thursday and into Saturday.”
After taking Monday off, Carlisle acknowledged that it was good for his team to get back on the practice court to sort some things out heading into the stretch run of the season.
“We worked on defense, we worked on offense, we worked on attacking different kinds of situations,” Carlisle said. “It was a day that we needed. Guys concentrated and focused well, and we’ve got to take this and bring some momentum into the remaining 16 games on the schedule.
“Look, Sac’s a talented team, New York is a good team. (The Knicks) were on a run coming in here. We had beaten them a couple of weeks ago, and so these teams are all motivated. We just got to understand that every game is going to be hard and challenging.”
From Brunson’s perspective, the Mavs have been down this losing-the-first-quarter road before and have rebounded nicely. During the Mavs’ season-high six-game losing streak from Jan. 23-Feb. 1, they lost the first quarter in all six games except for the 22-22 tie following the first quarter of the 109-108 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Feb. 1.
After that, the Mavs posted a 5-1 record while winning the first quarter in four of those six games.
“I guess we’ve been through this before a little bit. . .so we know we can bounce back from that,” Brunson said. “I think it just comes with sticking together.
“We’ve got 16 regular season games left. It’s easy to start thinking about the future, but we’ve got to think about one game at a time, one play at a time and keep focusing on right now.”
Statements after verdict: After former Minneapolis policer officer Derek Chauvin was convicted Tuesday afternoon on three charges of murdering George Floyd, National Basketball Players Association executive director Michelle Roberts and NBA commissioner Adam Silver released a joint statement.
It read: “George Floyd’s murder was a flash point for how we look at race and justice in our country, and we are pleased that justice appears to have been served. But we also recognize that there is much work to be done and the National Basketball Association and the National Basketball Players Association, together with our newly-formed Social Justice Coalition, will redouble our efforts to advocate for meaningful change in the areas of criminal justice and policing.”
The Minnesota Timberwolves and WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx also released a statement following the verdict, saying: “One year ago, George Floyd was murdered, causing unimaginable pain and trauma for his family, the Minneapolis community, and communities across the nation. Our deepest thoughts have been with the Floyd family since this unjust tragedy.
“Throughout our history, racial and social inequalities have been ingrained in our society. We are hopeful that today’s decision will serve as a step forward, but it does not ease the physical and emotional pain that continues in an environment where systemic racism exists. To our BIPOC community, the Timberwolves and Lynx remain committed to influencing change, promoting impactful action, and using our platform to help heal and unite in pursuit of liberty and justice FOR ALL.”
BIPOC is an acronym for black, indigenous and people of color.