An Exception Or The Rule? Dallas Mavericks Have First Losing Streak

Alex McVeighSenior Analyst IDecember 7, 2009

NEW ORLEANS - NOVEMBER 04:  Jason Terry #31, Shawn Marion #0, Jason Kidd #2  congratulate Jose Barea #11 of the Dallas Mavericks during the game against the New Orleans Hornets at New Orleans Arena on November 4, 2009 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

It was too good to last. The Mavericks had avoided losing back-to-back games thus far in the season, which is a great way to keep a high seed in the playoffs.

But no more. I don't know if I should blame myself, since it was the first two-game stretch where I didn't see a single minute of either game.

It's easy to blame ourselves. Or the refs. Or the rims (were they regulation size or what?). But the truth is, the Mavericks came out flat this weekend, and it cost them good.

Let's get the positive stuff out of the way so we can be free to wallow in our misery for the next 500 words or so.

The Grizzlies are not a bad team. In fact, they're putting together a pretty nice stretch since the departure of Iverson, and it's not like they don't have talent.

And I would have counted a win over the Hawks as a big deal, because with two athletic swingmen like Joe Johnson and Josh Smith, plus the fact that Quinton Ross (the other talented wing defender) was out with a back injury, things did not bode well.

So what went wrong?

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In the Music City, it was the offense. Dallas just couldn't get anything going, settling for jumpers, jacking up 29 three-point attempts, and only hitting nine of them.

Kidd took seven of them, which is fine with me (particularly since he made four of them). Terry took 10, which is a little much, but he also made four.

But Drew Gooden, JJ Barea, and Dirk Nowitzki bricked a combined seven of them. Let's get one thing straight. If your name is Drew Gooden, you do not, under any circumstances, shoot a three unless it's a buzzer beater from half court.

I'm glad I didn't see him shoot those; I might have blinded myself. With a paper clip.

The Mavericks are not a three-point shooting team. They just aren't. They have players who can shoot the three, even a player who's only in the league because he can supposedly shoot a three (cough cough Matt Carroll). But it's not part of their identity, and when almost a third of your shots are from behind the arc, something isn't going well.

The Grizzlies deserve a lot of credit though. Marc Gasol was downright locked down on Dirk Nowitzki, blocking him from angles I didn't think were possible. He also has the requisite bulk to body Dirk up, which makes Dirk uncomfortable, and it was clear to see that his rhythm was off all night.

Defensively, the Mavericks did okay. They left O.J. Mayo open in the corner too many times for my comfort level, and they made Zach Randolph look like a 2003 Tim Duncan, but other than that...

I was very impressed with Shawn Marion's defense on Rudy Gay, which is a pretty hefty assignment for someone on a bum ankle. Gay did score 18 points, but it was on 18 shots, so I would say Marion held up his end of the bargain, clearly keeping Gay from getting going.

In fact, Shawn Marion's defense was one of the bright spots of the entire weekend, as he handled two of the most dynamic small forwards not named Carmelo or LeBron in a 24-hour span.

Shawn Marion, already a little gimpy, would be hard pressed to deal with just one of them.

He held Smith to 12 points on 11 shots as well, so that's something. When he gets healthy, I have a lot of confidence that a frontcourt of Josh Howard and Marion can really make things uncomfortable for a lot of good players as the season wears on.

Besides having the most generic names imaginable, Johnson and Smith are 6-7 and 6-9 respectively, effectively hampering Rodrigue Beaubois' ability to defend, so with no Ross, the Mavs were in a bit of a pickle. 

I wondered who was guarding Johnson, until I saw the box score and the answer was clear. Nobody.

Without Josh Howard in the game, there's no cheating when you've got a long two-guard like that. And he made the Mavs pay.

While I said you couldn't cheat on defending someone like Johnson, I should have been clearer, because the Mavs certainly can cheat. They just can't get away with it.

While they didn't play too small, they did put Terry on Johnson, as well as Kidd for stretches.

Terry might as well have been a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest, because despite my previous praise of his defense in the passing lanes, he doesn't have the lateral speed to stay in front of Joe Johnson, who can beat you off the dribble, or pull up at and drain a J at a high percentage.

I like the idea of Kidd on Johnson because at least Kidd can push him around, but the combination of size and speed left Kidd standing in the lurch just as well.

But the biggest omission from the weekend was our beloved rookie, Rodrigue Beaubois. He didn't even get an entire minute in the Hawks game.

And while he started the Grizz game, he only logged 21 minutes even though he was clearly on a roll. He showed us a pretty midrange jumper, as well as hitting a three.

In fact, during the Grizzlies game, he was the only starter not to have a negative plus-minus, in that his was zero.

Beaubois on Mayo would have been a great matchup just to see how the rook did, because a combo guard like Mayo (or Dwyane Wade or Brandon Roy) is the type of guard Beaubois is going to need to guard when he's a regular player.

I get that Carlisle is playing it tight with Beaubois, limiting his exposure and even toying with sending him to the D-League, but come on.

It was a terrible game. The Mavericks scored their second-lowest total (the worst was the following night against Atlanta) of the season, so why not let the kid loose and see what he can do?

We already know he's an energy player that can create for himself in the half court set, and for others as well as himself on the fast break, so let him do his thing.

All in all, a disappointing weekend for the Mavs faithful, but all isn't lost. The Mavericks need to learn from this slap in the face.

It's a pretty steep learning curve with games against Phoenix and at Miami coming up. If the Mavs can't drop 100 on Phoenix, then we're all in trouble, and it will be interesting to see what they can do against Miami, a team that likes to control the pace of games with their defense.

Until then, I know I'll be sitting next to the panic button. Not pushing it, but very close by, just in case...