Dallas Mavericks Won’t Make Playoffs Without Defensive Improvement


John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

I was at the American Airlines Center on Wednesday night to see the Dallas Mavericks play the Houston Rockets. What I saw was a defensive disaster that made me want to puke as the Mavs lost 117-115.

The game wasn’t even that close. The Mavs were down 12 points with less than four minutes to go but managed to crawl back and had a chance to win at the buzzer. Even if they had managed to miraculously win, that still doesn’t change that the Mavs have a SERIOUS defensive problem and there will be no playoffs if it doesn’t improve.

I wrote a column last week about the Mavs being about where we thought they’d be halfway through this season. I mentioned that their bad defense was expected with the roster they put together. However, it feels like this defense is even worse than we thought it was especially after Wednesday’s loss to Houston.

Dallas and Houston were almost dead-even in rebounding with Houston having the slight edge 42-41. Combine that with Dallas winning the turnover battle and you would have thought the Mavs could have pulled out a win. But the Mavs let the Rockets shoot 55.4 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from the three-point-line. Jeremy Lin repeatedly blew by the Mavs’ guards and it looked like no one had any idea what to do.

No one knew how to guard Chandler Parsons or Terrence Jones and the Mavs also let role-players like Donatas Montiejunas and Aaron Brooks score in double digits. Oh and by the way, James Harden didn’t even play and I shudder to think what he would’ve done if he had.

As it stands right now, the Memphis Grizzlies are half a game back of Dallas for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, and unless the Mavs can improve defensively, making the playoffs is going to be quite a challenge. And I’m not saying the Mavs need to play like a top 10 defensive team. I’m just saying show some effort. It’d be better than what we’ve seen lately where teams such as the Rockets just walk by the Mavs for a layup or dunk.

There’s really no easy solution to fix the Mavs’ defensive woes. Shawn Marion is their best defensive player and at 35, he’s not the defender he once was. I don’t see the Mavs making a deal before the trade deadline because, frankly, they have nothing to trade. Whatever Rick Carlisle and the Mavs coaching staff do to fix this defense will have to be with the personnel they already have.

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One idea could be inserting Devin Harris into the starting lineup and moving Jose Calderon to the bench. Calderon is a horrible defender and Harris has done an excellent job on the defensive end during his short time back from injury. It’s something that would have to wait until Harris gets fully back into shape, but it’s something to at least consider. As far as interior defense goes, the Mavs just have to pray that Samuel Dalembert has his head on right during most nights, but even that’s a reach. DeJuan Blair is undersized and Brandan Wright isn’t exactly the most imposing presence either. I’d honestly consider maybe giving Bernard James some time and see what he can do in short spurts. It’s not like it’s going to get any worse.

The goal of this season for the Mavs is get back to the playoffs and I think they have the talent to do that. Clearly, Nowitzki is still a superstar as evidenced by his 38 point and 17 rebound performance Wednesday night. But if the Mavs defense continues to flat stink and waste a brilliant game from Nowitzki like Wednesday, then you can forget about the playoffs.