When the emotions of this playoff series wane a little bit, I think it’s a fair assessment to claim this season a success for the Dallas Mavericks. Remember, this team was riddled by Covid in the early stages of the year, and at one point in February possessed a 9-14 record. They finished 42-30 and winners of the NBA’s Southwest Division. By any reasonable metric, moral victories abound.
But the wound is still fresh, Mavericks fans. If anything, this one-round venture into the NBA playoffs–while thrilling at times–has produced more questions than answers in regards to how this organization moves forward. For now, they’ll have to live with the knowledge that they had plenty of chances to close the Clippers out only to succumb to them in seven games.
For all the hype, the Dallas Mavericks are once again not ready for prime time.
And that’s what will plague anyone who cares about this team as they transition into next season. The Mavericks took a stunning 2-0 series lead on the road and looked to be in prime position to upset their tormentors from last season. But even then, there were some warts that slowly got exposed, especially as the series wore on.
Namely, for every bit of brilliance from their superstar, Luka Doncic, big man Kristaps Porzingis simply rode along as a passenger. Now, I’ve long been a defender of Porzingis and would readily write off any bit of bad body language or perceived disinterest on the floor. I thought he’d be the same player he was when he was healthy during the regular season.
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Well, for practically the whole series, Porzingis was largely absent, and that presents a huge problem for the franchise. First and foremost, Doncic, for all his heroics, tended to wear down in the second half, and especially in fourth quarters. For all the contributions the Mavericks got from their role players, there wasn’t really a true shotgun rider to pick up the slack when Luka wasn’t hitting his shots. This was especially prevalent in games six and seven when the Dallas offense dried up. Credit the Clippers and their elite length and defending. But there were plenty of open looks for the rest of the team–created by Doncic, no less–that they just could not knock down.
It hurts bad enough to lose the series when they had two chances to close it out. But as it unfolded, I didn’t get the impression that the Clippers were that much better than the Mavericks. In fact, Dallas was appreciably better in the first two games. But at the end of the day, jump-shooting teams will live and die by the jump shot. It’s a tried and true cliche in the NBA, but if the shots aren’t falling, your team isn’t winning.
There are some parts that can contribute to a championship contender. Guards Tim Hardaway Jr and Jalen Brunson have been key role players, although Hardaway is an unrestricted free agent now, and the Mavericks will have to decide if they will pursue him. Forward Dorian Finney-Smith continued his rather remarkable development and figures to be in the team’s short-term plans at the very least.
But the biggest question is Porzingis himself. His contract is virtually unmovable when his spotty injury history and most recent playoff performances are taken into account. For all their apparent improvement, the facts state that the Dallas Mavericks made it exactly one game further into the playoffs than they did last year. It’s hard to face that down now, but they’ve got some difficult choices to make if they wish to build a true championship contender around Luka Doncic.
- Published on 06/07/2021 at 12:01 PM
- Last updated at 06/07/2021 at 00:59 AM