Dallas Mavericks’ reoccurring issue could cost team’s playoff hopes

The past week has been brutal for the Dallas Mavericks.

Mavericks' potential dilemma: Prioritize NBA in-season tournament or the  season itself?

On Friday, the Mavs suffered an awful 28-point loss to the Boston Celtics. Two days later, the team fell to the Philadelphia 76ers without star center Joel Embiid.

Just over a week ago, things weren’t any better. Dallas suffered defeats to the Indiana Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers. In simple terms, the Mavs are 1-4 in their past five games.

So, what is going on in Dallas? Could the issues be connected to the team’s shooting struggles? How about the play of their role players? Can anyone beyond Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving step up?

However, one of the biggest issues could be the Mavs’ defense.

The team somewhat improved their defense during their seven-game winning streak. Yet, they fell back to earth the past couple of games.

During the winning streak, Dallas got lucky, as the teams they faced struggled to shoot the ball. For example, on February 10, the Mavs beat the Oklahoma City Thunder by 35 points. The reason? OKC shot 38.8 percent from the field compared to the Dallas’ 58.2 percent.

Two days later, Dallas beat the Washington Wizards. Why? Its probably because the Wizards went 7-32 from behind the 3-point line.

Flash forward to the present, and teams are shooting better against Dallas while the Mavs struggle to contest attempts. For instance, look back at Friday’s game against the Celtics. During the game, Boston knocked down 48.8 percent of their long-range shots, as they made 55.3 percent of their shots.

It also doesn’t help when the team’s defensive rating was already low before the trade deadline. Right now, Dallas has the 22nd-worst defensive rating in the league. The Mavs also rank in the bottom 10 in steals, blocks, and defensive rebounds.

One of the biggest concerns is defensive rebounding. Dallas ranks 22nd in the league in defensive boards. The team’s leading board-getter is Doncic, who averages 8.1 defensive rebounds a game. After that, rookie Dereck Lively II is the next man with 4.6 defensive boards.

On top of that, Dallas also struggles to contain players in the paint. On average, they allow 52.7 points inside. Just look back at their two most recent losses. Against Boston, the Mavs allowed 62 points in the paint. The same trend occurred Sunday when the 76ers dropped 52 points down low.

Without Lively II or Daniel Gafford on the floor, the Mavs don’t have a true rim protector. Maxi Kleber has been solid on defense this season, but the Mavs’ small-ball lineup hasn’t performed as well as it needs to.

So what’s next for the Mavs?

Well, for starters, the team needs to get everyone involved. One player who could help is Gafford. The Dallas newcomer has struggled to see time. Over the past four games, he has averaged 10.25 minutes per game. Contrast this to his first three games with Dallas, where he played around 21 minutes. During that time, he also averaged 15 points and 12 rebounds.

Either way the Mavs’ defense has been flat. The team must improve defensively in they hope to go on a late run this season.

The Dallas Mavericks will look to bounce back Tuesday against the Indiana Pacers.

For all the latest on Luka Doncic, Daniel Gafford, Dereck

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