They have a three-game lead in their division, they’re tied with Denver for the second-best record in the conference and they’re finally healthy from top to bottom. So why are the stories of the moment for the Dallas Mavericks focusing on their weak play at home, offensive breakdowns and Dirk Nowitzki on a solo mission?
The telling quote that’s been making the rounds the last few days is Dirk’s Portland post-game questioning of what seems to be going wrong with a team that is 20-9.
"It just feels like, at home, I've got to make every shot down the stretch to win," he said.
Trying to find the reason behind that seemingly accurate assertion is the equivalent to the proverbial “needle-in-a-haystack.”
There have been numerous games this season where it was Dirk or nada down the stretch, the best example being his 29-point fourth quarter to salvage a home disaster against the Jazz. But how does that explain the way the Mavericks performed against Cleveland without Dirk versus what they rolled out against the overly depleted Trail Blazers in the next game with him?
The Mavericks had big offensive troubles last season due to a lack of scorers. As Josh Howard stayed hurt for most of the season, the Mavericks fortunes were for the most part tied to the offensive brilliance of Dirk and Jason Terry.
This season was to be different. They’ve added new components who can stick the ball in the basket in Shawn Marion, Drew Gooden and Tim Thomas. They’re also way more active defensively which leads to easier offensive opportunities and puts less stress on your half-court offense.
But all of that only comes into play when you get Dirk and JET doing what they do offensively. The early season ups-and-downs could be tied to injuries. Their recent issues probably have more to do with Terry’s inexplicable shooting woes.
Since the Mavs rolled the Nets on December 2, JET has been mired in a horrific slump. In the last ten games, Terry has only hit over 50 percent of his shots in one game and, ironically, it was the Cleveland game that Dirk missed. During this stretch JET has hit one out of every three shots he’s thrown up. Thrown up, indeed.
This isn’t to suggest that the recent problems are JET’s fault. Not even close. This is to suggest that JET is most likely the solution to their problems. The defense is there. The depth is there. The record is there. Once Terry's magic touch returns, the Mavs will have a solid defensive team with two clutch threats who open it up for everybody else.
At the moment it’s a one-trick pony. And until that changes, that’s where it’s at.