Yes, Dallas could lose their fifth out of seven tonight against the Golden State Warriors tonight. Yes, the Los Angeles Lakers are gaining momentum and have taken the #2 spot in the Western Conference away from the Mavs.
Yes, the Mavericks are struggling. At the same time, now is not a time for panic in Big D.
For a team that’s lost four of six, there’s really only been one time that Dallas’ opponent truly beat them. In the case of the Mavericks, the recent losses have primarily been lost because the Mavs have been beating themselves.
Against the New Orleans Hornets, the Memphis Grizzlies and the Portland Trailblazers, Dallas had at least a nine point lead at one point, only to lose it in the second half. Had Dallas kept their onslaught of offense, or came back big with defense, this article would have had a completely different subject.
Alright, so three of four games were lost by the Mavericks, not won by their opponents. What then made the Lakers game?
In the case of the loss to the Lakers, there should be some great praise given to the Mavs. For once, the Dallas defense delivered- holding Kobe Bryant and Company to 96 points. Granted, the Mavericks only scored 91, but this was the lowest the Mavs scored since January 22nd. As a whole, the offense, particularly the guards, had games to forget. Rodrigue Beabouis had a terrible night, as did the rest of the guards. Jason Kidd only put down five points and JJ Barea only mustered six.
But still, if Dallas needed to lose to a premier Western Conference team, that was the way to lose.
Had the guards been clicking on offense, the Mavs would have beaten the Lakers.
Dallas got nine blocks, six steals and 48 rebounds against Los Angeles- great defensive numbers for any team. Dirk Nowitzki was Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion had a solid 25 points.
After watching an off team lose to the Lakers, I feel confident that Dallas can contend in the playoffs against them in a seven game series. This Mavs squad is not the one that got crushed by the Lakers back in January. Their defense has improved tremendously over the past two months with the addition of Corey Brewer and the re-establishment of Tyson Chandler as the defensive focal point.
This team has been great recently, but if they can do the following two things, they will become a top power in the Western Conference throughout the playoffs:
1) The clear thing that Dallas needs to do is follow through in later quarters. The Mavericks are without question the best first half team in the NBA, but their weakness has been closing out. The New Orleans, Memphis and Portland games have all been proof of this.
Coach Carlisle had a point when he called his team soft- and it brought immediate results. If the coaching staff will get on the backs of the players and force them to play with mental toughness, this team will improve.
2) The strategy Dallas need to start is utilizing Roddy Beabouis in later quarters. He’s really putting up great numbers and could easily score 20+ if Dallas would play him. However, Rick Carlisle likes putting in Jason Terry in later situations. While Terry’s value is great and critical to the team, it seems that Roddy B is picking up momentum in late games as Terry loses it. I say let the sophomore play it out. Dallas can use scorers in the 4th quarter, they might as well use ones that have hot hands.
If Dallas begins to play with those strategies in mind, I feel strongly that the Mavs can make a championship run. Without them, a full playoff run is completely up in the air.