There are many reasons to believe in the Mavericks these days.
They’ve won 13 of the last 14 games. They realistically could improve down the stretch, considering they’ve just begun the process of blending Peja Stojakovic and Rodrigue Beaubois into the mix. Dirk Nowitzki is in the midst of an MVP-caliber campaign, and he’s never been surrounded by a deeper supporting cast.
But it’s definitely not all good in Dallas. There is one glaring issue coming out of the All-Star break: This Mavs have morphed back into a mediocre defensive team.
That’s probably too kind of a description for the Mavs’ defensive performance over the last five games. They’ve managed to go 4-1 in that stretch despite allowing 105.8 points on 47.8 percent shooting from the floor.
The Mavs have allowed at least 100 points in the last five games. By comparison, it took 36 games for the Tyson Chandler-anchored defense to give up its fifth 100-point outing this season.
The Mavs have been able to replace Caron Butler’s offensive production. They miss his defensive presence, which Stojakovic isn’t physically capable of providing. But the defensive slippage started before Stojakovic was inserted into the starting lineup.
The Mavs can beat the Kings, Rockets and Suns playing that kind of defense. The question is whether they could win a playoff series. Coach Rick Carlisle, who has been stressing defense as the key to the Mavs’ title hopes for the last two years, would rather not find out.