3 Points: Why can't Mavs protect big lead?
1. Why can't the Mavs protect a big lead?
Gutierrez: It’s a mix of the natural ebbs and flows that an NBA game presents and the fact that Dallas is well below average in terms of defense and rebounding. In terms of analytics, they’re in the bottom 10 in the entire league in defensive rating and in the bottom three in rebounding percentage. What allows them to produce big leads is the fact they’re a top-six team in terms of offensive rating. That allows them to hit teams early and build a lead. They can’t get stops or rebound the ball, thus allowing teams to creep back into games with easy looks at the basket or second-chance opportunities. Unless they radically improve in terms of both defense and rebounding, games are going to continue to trend this way. It’s just a matter if they can find a way to protect them at the end or not.
Taylor: That's easy: They're a poor defensive team. Actually, they're an awful defensive team. It has more to do with their personnel because Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis are poor defensive players and Dirk Nowitzki can try as hard as he can, but he can't defend guys in space. On the nights Samuel Dalembert doesn't come to play, which happens frequently, then the defense is even worse than usual. We knew they were going to be a bad defensive team before the season and nothing has happened to change that narrative. The only way the Mavs can improve their defense is to play as hard as they can and use effort and competitiveness to mask their deficiencies.
MacMahon: The cliché is that everybody makes a run in the NBA. Well, that’s especially true against poor defensive teams. The Mavs have to play hard and smart to be average defensively. They had a disturbing tendency to get lazy when they get a big lead. Suddenly, there’s a bunch of penetration, back-door layups and wide-open 3-pointers for the opponent. It doesn’t help that the Mavs are prone to cold stretches because they’re still primarily a jump-shooting team, particularly when Ellis settles for jacking up shots instead of attacking the basket.
2. Whose minutes should be reduced now that Devin Harris is ready?
Taylor: I'd cut Calderon's minutes by a few as well as Ellis' in hopes their minutes will be even more productive and that they will be a little fresher toward the end of the season. Harris needs to be worked in slowly. He can help, but the Mavs need to make sure they don't rush him back and lose him again because he aggravates the injury.
MacMahon: Harris’ presence can ease the workload of Ellis and give Rick Carlisle a closing alternative to Calderon. But it could end up costing Jae Crowder the most minutes. It’s notable that Crowder, who the Mavs have occasionally used to defend point guards, played only six minutes Monday against the Cavaliers. Carlisle seems determined to give the Harris/Shane Larkin off-the-bench backcourt a good look at the least. That could limit Crowder’s role in the rotation.
3. Was Shane Larkin's 18-point, five-assist outing in Phoenix a flash in the pan or a sign of progress?
Gutierrez: It is a sign of progress. I mentioned in a previous 3 Points that he was the most disappointing player on the team. He just didn’t have the aggression that was being advertised when he was drafted. Now, he looks like he belongs on the floor and knows what he wants to do when he’s out there. He certainly had a great opponent to break out against in the road game against Phoenix as they’re not known for their defense. Though it hasn't been as flashy, Larkin’s done well in the games after the matchup with the Suns, so it certainly appears that he’s turning a corner in his development. His speed and athleticism could help on the defensive end of the floor. Larkin has already paired up with Harris since Harris made his debut, so it’s possible those two could be a spark off the bench, though they would be incredibly undersized.
Taylor: Everybody in the NBA is capable of having a terrific night. Earlier this season, Crowder had a great three-game stretch where he scored 18, 17 and 10 points. The he hit double figures just once in the next 21 games. Larkin has a nice skill set, but his minutes right now will be inconsistent. His future is bright, but whatever he gives the Mavs these days is a bonus.
MacMahon: It’d be silly to expect Larkin to put up those numbers on a regular basis as a rookie, but he has a great opportunity to carve out a significant role as a Barea-esque turbo boost off the bench. I look at J.J. Barea's numbers from his third season -- when he averaged 7.8 points and 3.4 assists in his first year as a full-time rotation player -- as the optimistic standard for Larkin the rest of the year. It’s worth noting that Larkin has the best plus-minus (plus-2.7 per game) of any guard on the roster.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett at Mavericks media day to discuss his expectations for the upcoming season.
Play Podcast Mark Cuban joins Galloway and Company to discuss the Mavericks' new GM Gersson Rosas and much more.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss Mark Cuban's comments from Las Vegas about the Mavericks' offseason, how he sees the team without Dwight Howard and more.
Play Podcast Marc Stein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why the Mavericks didn't want to match Cleveland's offer to Andrew Bynum, what's next for the Mavs and the possibility of Dirk Nowitzki ending his career elsewhere.
Play Podcast Jeff Platt fires quick-hitters at Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon in the weekly sports standoff about Andrew Bynum, the Mavs' current backcourt, a potential Nelson Cruz suspension and more.
Play Podcast ESPN Los Angeles' Ramona Shelburne joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why she thinks Andrew Bynum got a bad rap in Los Angeles and how he would fit in with the Mavericks.
Play Podcast Buy, sell or hold? If Dwight Howard goes to another team, what are the Mavs' options? The guys take a look at a list of potential fallback options.
Play Podcast ESPN's Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the latest news on the Mavericks' meeting with Dwight Howard.