Here are my 5 takeaways from the Dallas Mavericks’ 116-107 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Friday night at Soctiabank Arena:
1. BARNES NEEDS TIME TO GET HIS TIMING BACK: Hey listen, it’s going to take time for Harrison Barnes to get his timing back. Barnes played his first game of the season Friday. However, you don’t miss practically a month – including the four preseason games and first four regular season games – of full practice time/games and return and expect everything to be copasetic. That’s not how this works. Barnes scored a respectable 14 points in 28 minutes and also grabbed six rebounds against the Raptors. But he was 5-of-17 from the field, including just 1-of-5 from beyond the 3-point arc.
2. FIRST QUARTER DEFENSE LACKING: Once again, the Mavs dug a huge hole for themselves in the first quarter and spent the balance of the game trying to dig out of that huge hole. The Mavs were down 18-2 with 6:36 remaining in the first quarter and 39-22 with 1:10 remaining in the first quarter. This puts an inordinate amount of pressure on the offense to catch fire and catch up, and for the defense to find itself. Setting the tone by getting an early lead – or even keeping the deficit to around six points or less – can make things fairly manageable for the remainder of the game.
3. DEANDRE JORDAN GOT THE MIDDLE UNDER CONTROL: There’s no need to worry about what’s going on in the middle. DeAndre Jordan has that sewn up. Not only is Jordan averaging a team-high 13.8 rpg, but he’s also third on the Mavs in scoring at 16 ppg. In addition, by collecting 18 points and 15 rebounds Friday, Jordan became the only player in Mavs’ history to record a double-double in each of his first five games of the season. And oh, by the way, Jordan was 8-of-9 from the free throw line Friday and is 22-of-26 from the charity stripe this season for a team-high 84.6 percent.
4. THE FULL TEAM HASN’T PLAYED TOGETHER: It’s difficult to tell how good this Mavs team will be until we can see them all play in the same game. But that hasn’t happened yet. With forward Harrison Barnes playing in his first game of the season Friday, we thought we would at least see the projected starting lineup on the floor together for the first time this season. However, point guard Dennis Smith Jr. missed the game against the Raptors with a sprained right ankle. A certain chemistry starts developing when the starting five can play together. That hasn’t occurred yet for the Mavs.
5. THREE-POINT DEFENSE: The positive is the Raptors made the fewest amount of 3-pointers (11) the Mavs have allowed in a game this season. But they also took the fewest 3-point shots (27) of any foe and wound up shooting 40.7 percent from downtown. Too many of those 3-pointers came from the corners, which is the game’s shortest 3-point line. In earlier games against the Mavs, Phoenix made 19 3s and shot 55.9 percent, Minnesota made 14 3s and shot 51.9 percent, Chicago made 13 3s and shot 56.5 percent, and Atlanta made 15 3s and shot 39.5 percent. This is a pattern the Mavs know must stop.