Analyzing the Mavs’ 112-109 Loss to the Pacers

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The Mavericks lost to the Indiana Pacers 112-109 on Sunday night, despite Luka Doncic’s 36 points, 8 assists, and 10 rebounds on 50% shooting. The Mavericks had trouble offensively, which is rare for the most efficient offensive team in the NBA. Additionally, their defense had some major issues, which led to the Mavs having trouble ever taking or holding onto a lead.

The areas for improvement against Indiana begin with Kristaps Porzingis. Porzingis went 3-17 from the field, which is his third least efficient game of his first season with Dallas. It was his 3 point shooting that hurt the most, going 0-5 from deep despite several open looks. This play sums up his poor shooting performance from the night:

Porzingis takes an unnecessary pump fake, proceeds to step back, and then takes the jump shot only to get blocked. The easy alternative to this horrid sequence is to simply make the extra pass to Maxi Kleber in order to organically create a better shot. Instead, this bad shot forces the Mavs to use their foul to give in order to stop the Pacers’ fast break.

Unfortunately, this isn’t where the Porzingis woes stop for the night. Porzingis may have been equally ineffective guarding the pick & roll of Oladipo & Sabonis.

Shown in the clip above are several features:

  • Porzingis ball watching
  • Porzingis late reaction time
  • Mavs miscommunication leading to open jump shots

While Sabonis is one of the elite P&R threats in the league, Porzingis is too good of a defender to be getting beaten consistently like he did Sunday night. I’ve noted Porzingis’ ball watching tendencies in the past, and if the Mavs want to be a threat in the playoffs, they need him to be fully focused on playing great defense, which is something he is capable of doing consistently.

However, it wasn’t all bad defensively for Dallas. While Courtney Lee went 2-9 and struggled to hit shots, he played good defense throughout most of the game. He was limited defensively in the P&R, but in one-on-one situations, Lee thrived. Below is one example:

Lee didn’t commit to the initial move, recovered well, and closed out with great anticipation of the shot coming up. He was able to be effective in 31 minutes of play due to being a pest defensively and helping promote good team defense. Lee has been a bright spot for the Mavs lately, and has found ways to make a positive impact on the team. When his defense is strong and his shots are falling, he becomes worthy of 20+ minutes per game.

Lastly, the performance of Luka Doncic was expected, but not overlooked. We’ve grown accustom to seeing exceptional Luka Doncic performances, but this one was one of his one-man-show games that should be remembered. Doncic had to do a lot of heavy lifting in the first half; he had 17 first half points, and the next highest scorer at half, Tim Hardaway Jr, had 10 points on 3-10 shooting. Plays like this became commonplace and necessary for Doncic to keep the offense functioning:

Doncic had to attack the basket excessively tonight. He took 10 of his 26 shots at the rim, and 3 within 10 feet of the rim. This took a toll on Doncic throughout the game and he took a lot of uncalled contact. Below is his shot chart for the game:

Doncic did a great job creating against Indiana, going 13-26 from the field while also creating 8 assists for teammates. We, as fans and media, have become used to these types of games from Doncic, but his trajectory continues to point towards becoming a generational superstar. Once Doncic learns how to successfully become a closer on a consistent basis, his game will take another step forward both in performance and in winning.

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