There are a lot of reasons to believe that the Dallas Mavericks are NBA contenders.
The offense is completely operating with no hiccups. In the past month, the Mavericks have scored fewer than 100 points only twice. Over the course of those 30 days, Dallas has averaged 104 points a game and has gone 13-1.
With the career resurgence of Peja Stojakovic and the reappearance of Rodrigue Beaubois, the Mavericks’ offense is only getting stronger as they move down the stretch. Dirk Nowitzki continues to put up MVP-like numbers, and the Dallas bench is exceptionally deep.
Why then should Mavericks fans be concerned? Dallas’ defense is quickly becoming a gigantic weakness.
Don’t let recent winning streaks fool you. Despite the victories, the Dallas defense has turned rancid. Over the past five games, Dallas has somehow gone 4-1 while allowing 105.8 points on 47.8 percent shooting from the floor. By comparison, it took 36 games for the Mavs to give up its fifth 100-point outing earlier this season. What happened to the defense?
The Mavericks have been slowly regressing back to a team that thinks “A good offense is the best defense.” Instead of making opponents slow down and take fewer quality shots, the Mavs are becoming more carefree about letting other teams take a shot at the basket.
This strategy is a killer in the playoffs.
Case in point, the Mavs lost, 121-120, in a potential playoff preview against the Denver Nuggets Feb. 10.
It’s become a common theme for the Mavs to go up big and rely on offense to close out a game. But as the Denver game showed, a capable offense will run with Dallas all the way into the final possession. Offensive powerhouses like San Antonio and the Lakers will be able to stay neck and neck with the Mavs for an entire playoff series.
It’s clear that the Dallas defense needs addressing. However, if there is ever a perfect window of opportunity for get their defense together, it’s now. For the next few weeks, they’ll play terrible teams like the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Washington Wizards and the Toronto Raptors. With the exception of the Los Angeles Lakers on March 12 and the San Antonio Spurs on March 18, Dallas has no real tests in the foreseeable future.
It’s a good time to experiment with little defensive changes. Dallas should seriously slow down the game tempo when playing the lesser teams of the NBA. They should go back to a Tyson Chandler-focused defense, one that utilizes big men to force teams to pass the ball. The Mavs should see what works and what doesn’t in their “tune-up” games on the stretch and then implement the effective defensive strategies in the playoffs.
There are many options for the Mavericks but defense needs to be one of them in order for them to go deep in the playoffs.
J.D. Moore is a freshman journalism major from Honolulu, Hawaii.