Dallas Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks: Even when Mavericks play slow, it won’t work without defensive execution

Here are the second-chance points we want to make about the Mavericks’ 111-104 loss at New Orleans Monday night, which ended their two-game winning streak and a 2-2 road trip:

Slow, slower, slowest: The Mavericks were determined not to get into a race-horse game against the Pelicans and it showed. They didn’t have a single fast-break point. New Orleans only had seven. The Mavericks did not want to run and they didn’t give themselves many chances by getting beaten handily on the glass (again). They were outrebounded 41-32, a common occurrence for one of the worst rebounding team in the NBA. That was a big reason they gave up 111 points.

Step backward: The Mavericks surrendered 53-percent shooting. So while the pace was to their liking, the score still got out of control because they couldn’t stop New Orleans with their half-court defense. The Pelicans hit 12-of-25 3-pointers and made 30 trips to the free-throw line. Defending without fouling has been a strength of this team when it has played well. When they don’t do it, they have almost no margin for error to win the game.

Dirk doing it right: While he’d like to be on the court longer, the process with Dirk Nowitzki is going in the right direction. He played 17 minutes, up from 15 on Friday in his first game back from the Achilles problem. He has scored 27 points in the 32 minutes he’s played. He likely will start playing in the second half of games before the week is out. But this is the right thing for Nowitzki and the team. Under no circumstances should his return be fast-tracked.

Still last: The Mavericks have won five of their last 10, but remain with the worst record in the Western Conference — residual evidence of just how awful their start to the season was. Seven teams in the West have put good distance between themselves and .500. The other eight all are at least four games under .500. One of them — and only one — will make the playoffs, likely with a sub-.500 record. The Mavericks would have to put together a serious run to leapfrog all the teams in front of them.

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