The Dallas Mavericks lost at home for the first time this season, falling to the Miami Heat 125-110. Luka Doncic led the Mavericks with 33 points but was limited to just three rebounds and five assists. Jalen Brunson also took 25 points on a great 10-of-13 shooting night.
The Mavericks played hard and competent for the most part but simply cannot match the Heat’s talent level, especially with the Heat at full strength while the Mavericks missed Kristaps Porzingis and Maxi Kleber. Bam Adebayo was thought to miss the game, but he played and dominated the paint with 22 points and 13 rebounds.
The Mavericks got off to a rare good start, leading 20-9 early on before the Heat began to take the lead. There was nothing in particular that the Mavericks should have done differently, the Heat was just better.
Now some thoughts.
Jalen Brunson should be a regular starter
Brunson was absolutely amazing tonight. Not only did he score, but he broke down with some solid defensive possessions. The Mavericks have made no secret of their eagerness to get the ball out of Luka’s hands. The problem is they don’t have any other ball handlers good enough to do this in the starting lineup. Starting Brunson solves this problem and allows the Mavericks to play a freer game.
Unfortunately, this move is not without consequences. The Heat bench outperformed the Mavericks bench in this game at 46-21. When Brunson takes off, the Mavericks must find a way to replace his production with the second unit.
The Mavericks’ big man rotation is rotten
There is an obvious caveat that the Mavericks’ two best big men didn’t play in this game. That said, Porzingis is less than reliable and Kleber is at his best with limited minutes. The remaining Mavericks big men are a mess. Benching Dwight Powell won’t be the panacea many think will be for all team problems, but he’s just not a starting big man in the NBA. He should be a 15 minute player against the benches of other teams.
Willie Cauley-Stein is not a good NBA player. His total and total lack of effort is appalling. He is blessed with tremendous physical gifts and sometimes those gifts help him play a solid defense but on balance his apathy hurts the team more. The team just can’t invest the amount of money and roster space they have in the middle position and get so little production. They should consider playing smaller with Luka or Dorian Finney-Smith as big more often, even if everyone is healthy.
This was a step in the right direction
It’s a bad sign when a team with championship aspirations can get moral victories on a 15-point loss, but that’s exactly what needs to be done tonight. The Mavericks haven’t looked like they belonged with the Hawks or the Nuggets in their two previous losses. They belonged on the floor tonight with the Heat, the Heat just made more shots.
Dorian Finney-Smith played his best game of the season (though this is damning with vague praise). Tim Hardaway Jr. and Reggie Bullock made a few shots. Luka managed to get to the free throw line and make it. All in all, considering the difference in talent available for tonight’s game, this was really a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, it also became clear how many steps this team still has to take.
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