While the Mavericks fight through some problematic areas, the best news they can keep telling themselves is this:
Better now than later.
They have been — shall we be charitable? — underwhelming with their 3-point shooting through the first three games of the restart – and that includes the first game against Houston, in which the Mavericks shot the ball beautifully.
But even with that 21-for-49 showing from 3-point range, they are shooting just 29.8 percent from beyond the arc through three games.
That’s what 15-for-71 shooting in the last two games (21.2 percent) will do to your averages.
By comparison, the Mavericks shot 36.9 percent before the stoppage of play in March.
Shots come and go. Right now, they have left the bubble for the Mavericks. But if you’re going to go frigid from long range, better to do it when you’ve already locked up a playoff berth and no worse than the No. 7 seed.
And it says something that the Mavericks got back to winning ways Tuesday against Sacramento not with their shooting, but with grit and hustle.
“That’s pretty much what we’ve been saying,” Dorian Finney-Smith said. “We’re not going to make shots every night. But we can control our energy. We just found a way to win – kept battling. I feel like we took a step forward today.”
For coach Rick Carlisle, shooting problems would not top his list of concerns. In fact, transition defense, stopping dribble penetration and pretty much all other defensive nuances would rank ahead of shooting, as would rebounding.
And, on the bright side, the rebounding has been terrific through three games.
But the Mavericks didn’t earn the No. 1 offensive rating in the NBA by missing 80 percent of their 3-pointers.
Carlisle knows that Luka Doncic, who is not one of the Mavericks’ top 3-point shooters, is not going to go 3-for-18 from distance the rest of the season. But that’s what he’s shot in the first three games back. He also knows Tim Hardaway Jr. will not shoot 3-for-17 as he did in the past two games.
Again, better now than two weeks from now when the playoffs have begun.
Winning ugly: The Mavericks avoided their first three-game losing streak of the season with Tuesday’s win over the Kings.
As Doncic said, it was not a thing of beauty, except when you looked at the bottom line.
“We played one of the worst games ever and we still won,” Doncic said. “We needed that win. It wasn’t our best game. But you can never count us out, for sure.”
The Mavericks remain the only team in the NBA that hasn’t had a three-game losing streak this season.
Briefly: Forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was active on Tuesday against the Kings, the first time he’s suited up in the bubble. Seth Curry’s right leg soreness opened up a spot for Kidd-Gilchrist, who did not play in the game. “He’s worked hard,” Carlisle said. “It’s been a long time for him coming out of quarantine and all that kind of stuff. But he’s worked extremely hard and I know he’ll be ready. He’s a competitor.” . . . The Mavericks took Wednesday as a health day, giving the players’ bodies a chance to rest, before resuming action against the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday at 5:30 p.m., Dallas time.