The Dallas Mavericks were again competitive with the Phoenix Suns before eventually falling 112-104. Luka Doncic was once again out with ankle and knee sprains, although he seemed to be moving quite well in the warm-up before the match. Maxi Kleber sat out with an oblique load and the remaining Mavericks were not talented enough to match the Suns.
The Mavericks had a five-point lead of 84-79 after three quarters. The Suns continued to run 24-6 during the first 7:36 of the fourth quarter to essentially seal the match. The Mavericks used a wealth of energy defensively with an extremely aggressive catch scheme that produced seven Suns turnovers.
Here are some thoughts.
Mavericks need to work on conditioning
Luke’s conditioning has been mentioned a lot and he needs to be in better shape. But he is not the only one. The defensive defense that the Mavericks played in the third quarter clearly took a lot out of the legs of several players. Dorian Finney-Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Dwight Powell are in extremely good shape. Everyone else could be in better shape.
Playing any sport while you are exhausted negatively affects performance, especially performance in late games. That trap defense is not a long-term option against good NBA teams because good ball handlers will beat it. Players must still be in good enough shape for it to be a short-term option.
Jalen Brunson is very good, but he is not Luka
One of the most important developments early in the season has been Brunson’s play. He has brutalized bench units and he has also been able to puncture starting units when paired with Luka. Without Luka, he became the focus of the defense, and his performance suffered.
He was still solid enough, he had 18 points, nine rebounds and nine assists on Wednesday. He had 18 points more, four rebounds and 10 assists tonight. He’s better than some starting point guards in the NBA, but it’s clear he’s not one STAR in its own right.
Dorian Finney-Smith has found her jumper
Over his first eight games, Finney-Smith was 8 of 40 from three-point range. During the last seven games including tonight he is 17/33. The first 8 games caused some concern as the Mavericks desperately need to shoot around Luka and Porzingis. It has been lost in the middle of some other developments, but that Finney-Smith is regaining her leap is a huge development.
In general, it’s hard to be sad. The Mavericks played one of the best teams in basketball twice on their court. They did it without all the superstar, Luka Doncic and the glue guy Maxi Kleber. Two blowouts would not have been shocking, but they kept both matches close enough that the losses could feel frustrating. There are no moral victories, but it’s time for the Mavericks to become goldfish and move on to the next one, hopefully with full force.
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