Improved Defense Could Turn Mavs’ Season Around

Dwight Powell

Getty Dwight Powell plays defense in a game against the Denver Nuggets

Over the past few seasons, poor defense has held the Dallas Mavericks back. In fact, even early in the current season the Mavs were among the worst defenses in the entire NBA. 

However, they’ve turned things completely around of late. Now 37 games into the season, Dallas is 19-18 which is good for sixth in the Western Conference. 

The Mavericks have won three-straight games, with the winning streak being fueled by solid defense. Over this stretch, they’ve held their opponents to 90 points per game on average, with no team able to score in triple digits against them. 

With how much offensive firepower the Mavs have, a solid defense could make them one of the top teams in the league. 

Holding Teams Under 100

The last time the Mavericks lost was four games ago against the Sacramento Kings. The Dallas offense struggled in that game, but the team had a chance to win as they held the Kings to just 95 points. 

During the recent three-game winning streak plus this contest against Sacramento, the Mavs have held opponents under 100 points in four consecutive games. 

Following a recent win over the Denver Nuggets in what was a dominant defensive performance, Mavericks coach Jason Kidd gave his thoughts on how the team has improved on that end of the floor. 

“I think it’s all of the above (defensive principles and style of play) in a sense of feeling comfortable with the schemes, being active defensively,” said Kidd. “The 26 turnovers means your hands are active, you’re in the right spot and you’re covering one another. Our defense right now is playing pretty good.”

In this huge win that got Dallas over .500 on the season, the team forced 26 turnovers which was key in the victory. 

Dwight Powell had his own thoughts on the improved team defense, saying the team is starting to really mesh defensively with more games under their belt. 

“I am not sure specifically what the clicking is, but our focus is always around defense, and we are starting to be able to apply some things working with each other,” said the Mavs center. “Our chemistry on that end of the court has definitely improved. Especially with the next-man-up mentality we have kept with the chaos of this time of year with everything going on, guys are playing the shooter hard and good things are happening.”

With this increased defensive production, the Mavericks are now a top-ten team on that end of the floor out of nowhere. Over the past two weeks, they’ve earned the third best defensive rating of any team in the league. 

Finding the Ideal Starting Lineup

Outside of continuing to play solid defense, the Mavericks still need to find their most efficient starting lineup. Early in the season, Kidd tried quite a few different combinations of starters, none of which seemed to work out. 

Over the past few weeks with so many players in health and safety protocols, Dallas hasn’t been healthy enough to even attempt to find the ideal lineup. 

Kidd touched on this issue earlier this week, mentioning that he’s glad the team is playing well in the meantime. 

Jason Kidd

Chris Gardner/StringerJason Kidd

“We’re just finding out what we can do,” Kidd said. “It’s going to take us some time to know that but this group is playing well together. We’ll change it again here in a couple of games when [Kristaps Porzingis] comes back.”

Once the team is fully healthy again, the Mavs will once again start to find their ideal starting lineup. With how Jalen Brunson has played lately, he could be the missing piece in the starting unit rather than coming off the bench. 

Reggie Bullock could be another guy to continue trying with the starting unit, as Dallas is 4-0 this season when he scores at least 15 points. 

Powell has spent time both as a starter and a reserve over the course of the season as the Mavs tweak rotations, having unique perspective on the situation. 

“This team has a lot of great players, and we have a great system. Guys that come in and buy into it – no matter if they are on a 10-day contract or whatever – can come in and affect in a positive way and follow our principles,” Powell said. “They are a great group of guys and whoever we put out there first or second or whoever is in the game at the end is going to give it their all and give us a chance to win the game.”

If the Mavericks are able to find the right starting group and continue playing great defense, they could be a legit threat in the West. If not, they could continue to flat around .500 like they have all season long. 

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