This team has tremendous trouble trying to defend explosive point guards.
Really, Dallas’ entire 2-2 road trip served as a pretty good illustration of that issue. Curry just capped it off in spectacular fashion Wednesday night by accounting for the Golden State Warriors' final 19 points, including a game-winning jumper off the dribble to send the Mavs home with a 95-93 loss.
The average outing by an opposing point guard on the road trip: 28.9 points, 9.0 assists, 51.3 percent shooting from the floor.
Dallas survived a 26-point, nine-assist night by the New Orleans Pelicans’ Jrue Holiday and a 32-point, five-assist performance by the Portland Trail Blazers' Damian Lillard, pulling out a couple of heart-pounding wins to make the trip a modest success. But the Mavs were torched for 24 points and 12 assists by the Sacramento Kings' Isaiah Thomas and 33 points and 10 assists by Curry in the two losses.
The Mavs can’t consider any of this even mildly surprising. It’s a flaw they’ve been well aware of since constructing their roster this summer.
They knew when they signed Jose Calderon to a four-year, $29 million deal that he lacked the lateral quickness to be an adequate defender. That’s been part of his scouting report since he entered the league.
It certainly hasn’t helped that Calderon is coming off a bone bruise in his right ankle that caused him to miss a Nov. 30 loss. The fact that Samuel Dalembert, who was signed primarily to be the rim-protecting backbone of a flawed defense, has been a disappointment recently makes matters worse.
Monta Ellis might fare better defensively against point guards, but he’s far from a defensive stopper. Plus, it’s probably asking too much to expect Ellis to exert the kind of defensive energy required to slow down high-caliber point guards in addition to being the Mavs’ primary offensive initiator while playing 37 minutes a game.
The Mavs can utilize their Shawn Marion, their 6-foot-7, do-it-all defender, against point guards on occasion. That, however, causes all kinds of cross-matching issues. And remember that Marion is a 35-year-old forward, so it’s a stretch to think he can keep up with lightning-quick point guards in their prime.
In case you forgot, watch Curry’s game winner again. Marion ended up switching on to him after a pick and didn’t get any help against the hot hand. The result was predictable: Curry created his own shot, dribbling to a spot a few feet above the right elbow, pump-faking to get Marion to fly ball and swishing a jumper.
Little Shane Larkin has pest potential, but a rookie generously listed at 5-foot-11 will be exploited defensively in extended stretches.
Help is on the way with Devin Harris. He hopes to be able to play before Christmas and will immediately be the Mavs’ best defensive guard, but he’s also a guy who hasn’t played a game in months and is coming off of toe surgery. Harris, 30, also might be better suited to defend shooting guards at this point of his career.
This isn’t an issue the Mavs can avoid. Look at all the scoring threats playing quarterback in the West: Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, San Antonio’s Tony Parker, the Clippers’ Chris Paul, Denver’s Ty Lawson, Phoenix’s Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, Memphis’ Mike Conley, plus the four the Mavs faced on this trip.
If the Mavs can’t figure out how to slow down good point guards, it’ll be awfully difficult to move up the West standings.