The Sacramento Kings handed the Dallas Mavericks its most disappointing loss of the season – and it’s not even close.

Behind a dynamic performance from De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento beat Dallas to snap its nine-game losing streak, 121-107.

Luka Doncic was the high-point scorer in the game with 37 points. But Doncic’s offense was for not, as Fox’s 30 points were enough to get his Kings over the hump.

Outside of Doncic for the Mavs, Dorian Finney-Smith totaled 22 points, and Jalen Brunson chipped in with 20 off of the bench.

On Sacramento’s side of things, Harrison Barnes scored 24 points, and Terrence Davis tallied 23.

Dallas didn’t show up against a team that couldn’t buy a win in recent weeks. And it’s in a loss like this that the Mavs have to look at what they are and know they can be better, but they routinely continue to come up short.

“I don’t know,” Doncic said in regards to fixing the Mavericks’ energy issues. “It starts with me. I got to be better.”

Key observations:

1.) Dallas’ energy problem is deeper than what is let on. It wasn’t until the third quarter that the Mavs started playing with a sense of urgency. Before that point, they were outscored by Sacramento 67-50.

The third frame offered signs of life, Dallas outscored Sacramento 27-20. Yet, it didn’t make much of a difference as Dallas failed to flip the game against a significantly worse Kings team.

2.) The Mavericks energy and consistency issues may be rooted in the lack of identity this version of the team has.

Dallas clearly went in a younger direction this offseason. It was supposed to be the year of Doncic’s next step as a leader. He hasn’t taken it. And since he isn’t there as a leader, the team’s identity suffers.

Losses like this are identity losses. Dallas played down to the level of its competition. At some point, the team has to confront its reality. They are currently staring a first-round playoff loss in the face if something doesn’t change.

“There has been some soul searching,” Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said. “There is a concern. And this game brings the issues into a sharper focus. We have got to get ourselves back on track… We’ve got to win games.”

The game by the numbers:

3.) The defense gave up another great shooting night to an opposing team. Sacramento shot 45 percent from three on 24 attempts. Davis didn’t miss (5/5), and Barnes shot 5-8 from behind the arc. To win games, it starts on the defensive end. Dallas needs to refocus on that end of the floor if it hopes to slip out of this slump.

4.) Doncic nearly won Dallas the game in the fourth quarter. He scored 22 of his 37 in the final frame. It shouldn’t take a Superman performance from him to beat the Kings.

Roster reconstruction needs to be on the docket in the offseason. There are so few offensive creators on the roster, and that limits Carlisle’s options for rotations. Simply put, this roster isn’t good enough to compete with tier one Western Conference teams.

5.) Kristaps Porzingis played 11 minutes in the fourth quarter and shot two shots. He didn’t score a single point in the quarter either. Dallas is not using its walking matchup nightmare correctly. Scratch that, Dallas isn’t using its walking matchup nightmare at all.

The Mavs are the best version of themselves when Porzingis is playing well. Fourth-quarter offensive touches for him should be a norm, not an aberration.

Looking ahead:

This loss for Dallas is a reality check. Bad habits die hard, and Sunday night put all of the Mavs’ terrible habits on display. This team is inconsistent, inefficient, and lately ineffective. Soul searching or not, the Mavs aren’t close to great.

And truth be told, they haven’t been a great team this entire season. They have put together good stretches, but they haven’t found the day-to-day consistency that separates the average from the good or great teams in this league. At this point, this is simply who Dallas is. And if things don’t change, the team is looking at yet another first-round exit and a long offseason full of questions.

Related reading on the Mavericks. 

Feature image via Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports.
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