The Dallas Mavericks opened up the season Wednesday with a 107-105 loss to rival Phoenix Suns. The team held up a 22 point lead all the way up until the third quarter. The Suns outscored Dallas 62-43 in the second half, leading them to overcome the Mavs’ lead, as Damion Lee hit the game winner with 9.7 seconds to go.
Some highlights of the game included Luka Doncic scoring 35 points, Christian Wood being a lethal scorer off the bench and Spencer Dinwiddie proving to be a reliable ball handler.
However, whatever the case may be Dallas lost plain and simple.
We look at what the Dallas Mavericks must do to be an elite team in the West
But with 81 games left in the season, what must the team do to compete against other squads in the Western Conference.
1. Play Wood, Play him more
On Wednesday Wood played a total of 24 minutes. It was his play that helped Dallas open up the scorebox in the second quarter. But, once the second half began things took a different approach.
He played in half of the third quarter, and spotty minutes in the fourth. As Phoenix began to match the Mavs’ scoring, Wood was no where to found.
If Dallas hopes to provide any sort of help for Doncic, they are going to have to rely on Wood a lot more. Having Wood late in the game will allow for the team to provide more rebounding help and give the squad an extra scorer they can rely on.
His 16 points in the fourth allowed Dallas to keep things, but him not playing the final minutes of the game may have hurt the team.
Maybe Kidd should play the big man more, what is the worse that could happen?
2. Get More Offensive Production
Against the Suns, only four Mavs finished in double digit points. Reggie Bullock closed out the game with 10 points, as Dinwiddie had 15. Aside from those two, no other role players stepped up for the team when needed.
In his first game back since January, Tim Hardaway Jr. had a mere nine points, as he shot 30 percent from the field. His biggest struggle came from the three-point line where may shot 1-5.
Aside from that, returning Mavs such as Dorian Finney-Smith, Maxi Kleber, and Josh Green all struggled. Combined all three scored eight points in over 20 plus minutes.
The team is going to need help from across the board if they hope to compete in the West.
3. Make Free-Throws
Last night proved just how important making free-throws can be. As a team, Dallas made 61.8 percent of free-throws. Contrast that to the Suns 86.4 percent, and this could have been a whole different game.
Players like Wood (who shot 3-10) and Dinwiddie (who missed his only two attempts) cost the team chances to moves further ahead.
One thing to note is Doncic was perfect from the line, as he made all of his attempts.
If Dallas can practice what they preach and make their free throws, then they have a good chance of building upon their lead.
4. Control the Paint
If Dallas hopes to get over their postseason woes from last season, they must find a way to control the paint.
Against the Suns, the Mavs scored 20 less points from inside the paint. Additions JaVale McGee and Wood were suppose to provide major assistance in areas down low.
This could be fixed if Dallas plays Wood at the appropriate times. Not to mention, the team did not play Dwight Powell last night.
Finding a way to mix and match their number of big men, can possible solve any issues they have down low.
With the season still early, the Mavs have a great chance of correcting key areas. However, the team must start with not blowing 22 points lead.