Sometimes when the going gets bad, it’s tough to get going.
“When things are difficult, it becomes even harder to bust out of it,” Rick Carlisle said after the game. “We are doing too many good things to not keep pushing towards progress.”
Devin Booker shattered The Dallas Mavericks’ heart with a game-winning three-pointer, and the Phoenix suns walked away with a 109-108 win Monday. The Mavs are now riding a six-game losing streak and it feels as though nothing can go Dallas’ way in recent games.
The Mavs did everything right on Monday. Everyone played with effort, intensity, tenacity, and grit. There were clear convictions and a sense of urgency among the players and the coaching staff that hadn’t existed through the last five games. And still, it wasn’t enough.
Here is another look at Booker’s spectacular play:
The game-winning play:
The Mavs had a foul to give coming into the Phoenix possession. It was expected that Dallas would take the foul, forcing the Suns to set up another offensive action. In the end, the foul wasn’t taken, and Booker got a good look at the basket, and the rest was history.
After the game, Carlisle said that the blame was on him for not making sure that a foul was taken.
“We were well aware that we had the foul to give. We were supposed to take it, but we did not, and that is my responsibility,” he said. “I guess we are just learning the hard way that attention to the smallest details is of the utmost importance.”
Though Carlisle took the blame for the untimely mistake, it doesn’t take away the disappointment of a game Dallas had so many opportunities to win. Phoenix unwittingly stole victory out of the jaws of defeat.
The game by the numbers:
Dallas had five players in double-figures to end the night. The leading scorer among them was Luka Doncic, who finished with 25 points, eight assists, and five rebounds.
Second in scoring was Josh Richardson, who had his best game since returning to the lineup on Jan. 27. He was aggressive early, hunting for his shots on his favorite parts of the floor. This was the guy Dallas hoped to get when they traded for him in the offseason. However, issues with COVID-19 and knee soreness limited his production until late.
When asked about being more aggressive after the game, Richardson said that he “felt like himself again in warmups.” An aggressive Richardson is exactly what Dallas needs. His skillset compliments both Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis well. If he keeps playing with this newfound hunger to score, that can expedite Dallas’ journey into finding out exactly what it is as a team.
Porzingis struggled out of the gate, but by the end of the game, he managed to tally a double-double scoring 19 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Having him regain his ability to dominate both ends of the floor is what is holding Dallas back. Yet, patience is paramount in regards to Porzingis’ play. The rehab process is long, and though he has played in a slew of games since returning, regaining confidence a rhythm on the court takes time. He will find his groove again, it is just a matter of when it will happen.
Dallas again struggled to contain Chris Paul. He finished with 34 points, nine rebounds, and nine assists. Paul is a Hall of Fame player, but his offensive outbursts against the Mavericks are not necessarily new to this team. Dallas has struggled to limit guard effectiveness all season. Part of that has to do with the loss of Richardson for a long stretch of time. But also a part of it has to be the defensive scheme.
Paul got anywhere he wanted to go on the court. He did anything he wanted to do. And his outstanding offensive play kept the Suns in the game while Booker was finding his sea legs again after returning from being sidelined with an injury.
Slowing Paul down means a commitment to the little things. And we have seen that this team has struggled all season to commit to the aspects of the game that don’t necessarily show up in the box score.
As the Mavs look ahead to Atlanta, slowing Trae Young down will be equally as difficult for the team. He is an offensive-minded, smaller guard, and typically this season, those are the guys that kill Dallas.
On the year Dallas now sits 8-13, which is good enough for 13 in the Western Conference.
I know the losing streak is bad. It’s the elephant in the room that everyone is talking about. But let’s not forget to put things into context. Monday night was the first time all season Dallas played with its full roster (Maxi Kleber included). Kleber is a big part of what Carlisle wants to do on offense. He provides spacing on the court to allow Porzingis to operate in the post. And defense is one of his calling cards, as he is often a great team and positional defender. To add to that, Kleber is one of Dallas’ best three-point shooters. Having him back is a clear advantage.
The Mavericks’ schedule also eases up in the next few days. Dallas will play Atlanta, Golden State in two straight games, Minnesota, and then Atlanta again. Those are very winnable games for Carlisle’s team. And nothing cures losing like a plate full of home games against beatable opponents.
No one promised this season would be easy. Also, no one said it would be this difficult. But if we look at things with the glass half full, Dallas has its full team back, and an easy schedule going forward. I wouldn’t be surprised if things start breaking their way.
related reading: Can Dallas stop the bleeding?
Feature image via Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports.