The Dallas Mavericks lost to the Indiana Pacers Friday night 103-83. The 20-point beating ends the first 10-game stretch of the season, and saying that there have been mixed results would be an understatement.
Just look at the 5-5 record that the Mavs now have after Friday night's loss. There have been things that this team has done that are very impressive, and also things that make you scratch your head.
The first two games of Dallas' season are a prime example. In the season opener against the Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas executed the offensive schemes perfectly, and they managed to only get outrebounded by a small margin. They protected the ball and forced the Lakers to make tough shots and free throws. All that combined led to a big statement-type of win against a team who was, and probably still is, expected to dominate the West, even though they proceeded to fire coach Mike Brown after a 1-4 start and hire offensive-minded coach Mike D'antoni.
But then you look at the next game the next night against the Utah Jazz, and Dallas got outrebounded heavily by the Jazz' frontcourt of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. That combined with poor offensive execution, turnovers, and bad defense led a blowout loss to the Jazz.
Those two games are a precise representation of how the Mavs' season has gone. When Dallas plays well, they look really good. When they don't play well, they look very bad.
Maybe it is too early to start evaluating this team. Keep in mind that Dallas is still missing their former MVP in Dirk Nowitzki. Will he help clean up some of the problems the Mavs are having right now? Of course. But one guy isn't going to fix all the problems the Mavs are having. Dallas has a lot that needs to be worked on.
Dallas must have better and more consistent execution on offense. That means knowing when to push and knowing what offensive plays to run when they can't push. Turnovers have often occured when Dallas has pushed the tempo when it wasn't in their favor. The same goes for when the offense gets stagnant in the halfcourt. Poor passing has led to inexcusable turnovers and buckets for the opposing team. Rick Carlisle must get his guys to understand when to do certain things.
The Mavs also must find a closer for the 4th quarter, even when Dirk comes back. That is why Jason Terry was so good. He took on the closer role with Dirk to help the Mavs close out many games. Dallas doesn't have that right now, and a guy like O.J. Mayo or Shawn Marion or Darren Collison needs to take on that role. Mayo has shot great so far this season in leading Dallas in scoring right now at 21 points a game. But right now he needs to take on more of a closer's mentality. That could help this team close out games, even when Nowitzki returns.
Dallas has had plenty of halftime leads. For the most part, they have gotten off to good starts in every game this year. The problem is sustaining that energy and putting teams away, which Dallas has not been able to do.
So going into Saturday night's game against Cleveland, which Mavs team will we see? The team that did everything right in beating the Lakers in a convincing fashion? Or the one that coughed up leads to the New York Knicks and Charlotte Bobcats after halftime?
Just like the NBA, this Mavs team is very unpredictable.
Dallas will try to end its struggles, especially on the road, on Saturday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
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