Here are my 5 takeaways from the Mavs’ 120-113 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Sunday night at American Airlines Center:
1. TRANSITION DEFENSE LACKING: The way the Kings ran the ball up and down the floor reminded me of the old Steve Nash-led Phoenix Suns when they disregarded the 24-second shot clock and fired up shots in seven seconds or less. Even when the Mavs made baskets against Sacramento, about six seconds later the Mavs were taking the ball out of the basket at the other end of the court, because the Kings had scored that quickly. Sacramento’s engine was so fine-tuned that it outscored the Mavs in transition points, 32-14.
2. DIRK GETS STANDING OVATION: The buzz was going on all day from fans. They wanted to see Dirk Nowitzki play his first home game this season and give him the proper ovation. Then it happened. The loud noise (of appreciation) from the fans started as soon as Nowitzki rose from the bench and headed to the scorer’s table with about four minutes remaining in the first quarter. It reached a crescendo when, with 3:17 left in the first quarter, American Airlines Center announcer Sean Heath – in his own way — announced that “The Big Daddy Tall Baller From The G” was entering the game.
3. SMITH, BAREA SORELY MISSED: When you’re playing a team like the Sacramento Kings that depend heavily on guards De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield, ideally you would like to have all of your best guards available. That wasn’t the case with the Mavs on Sunday. The Mavs were without starting point guard Dennis Smith Jr. (wrist) and backup point guard J. J. Barea (ankle) – he runs the second unit so eloquently — and that was a major factor in what transpired Sunday.
4. SHOOTING HAS TO BE BETTER: The Mavs only converted 41.7 percent of their field goals and also missed 26 of the 35 shots they attempted from beyond the 3-point arc. Indeed, it was an exercise in futility for the Mavs as shots either totally missed their marks, or went halfway in the basket and decided to come back out. The Mavs also missed seven free throws. Fortunately for the Mavs, something as mundane as missed shots/missed free throws are as correctable as making a u-turn after you got off the freeway on the wrong exit.
5. DONCIC IS NBA’S BEST ROOKIE: Luka Doncic keeps on proving that he’s the NBA’s best rookie. Doncic led the Mavs in scoring for the 11th time this season as he poured in 28 points on 9-of-15 shooting. It was the second-highest scoring game of Doncic’s career, eclipsed only by the 31 points he tallied against the San Antonio Spurs on Oct. 29. This also was the 14th time in his 27-game career that Doncic has scored 20 or more points in a game. In addition, Doncic pulled down six rebounds and handed out nine assists for the second time in the past four games.