Mavs not alone; offense ugly all over

LOS ANGELES -- The Dallas Mavericks aren't alone in their struggles to put the ball through the old peach basket. The entire NBA is stinking it up, and while players keep saying offense will improve once they get their legs under them one has to wonder if the nature of the schedule will ever allow that to happen.

"Throughout the season," said Dirk Nowitzki, averaging just 17.9 points on 46.9 percent shooting and 19.2 percent from 3-point range, "I expect a lot of ugly games like that to happen. It's just normal."

Nowitzki is referring to Monday night when Dallas lost a game in which it allowed 73 points, including a franchise-record low seven in the third quarter, 38.2 percent shooting overall, 10 percent from 3-point land and held the league's leading scorer to 18 points under his average.

How is that possible? Because Dallas shot 35 percent and while the Lakers managed a single point in the final 6:58 of the third quarter, Dallas went scoreless for 5:01.

"Hasn't been there all year," Terry said of a Mavs offense that ranks 21st in scoring at 92.6 points a game and 22nd in field-goal percentage at 43.1. "But defensively, we're doing our job. We just have to make shots. Stay encouraged; defensively we're playing our ass off. We'll get there. Again, it was just an uncharacteristic, off-shooting night for us. I'm not really concerned."

Only it wasn't all that uncharacteristic. OK, there haven't been many 4-of-26 nights from beyond the arc. Unless you count the 1-of-19 night at San Antonio, the 7-of-24 showing at Minnesota, the 9-of-28 against Miami, the 8-of-27 against Denver or the 9-of-26 night at Oklahoma City. Dallas is shooting 30.9 percent from downtown as a team, and there are six teams shooting worse.

The Mavs have room for improvement, but so does the rest of the league. Scoring and field-goal percentage are down dramatically from last season. In 2010-11, 11 teams averaged 100 or more points and eight averaged 101 or better. Through the first three weeks of this season, five teams are averaging 100 or more with just two at 101 or better. The Mavs averaged 100.2 points last season, ranking 11th. This season, that number would rank fifth.

A whopping 19 teams this season are averaging 96 points or fewer with 16 averaging 94 or fewer. Last season, only eight and four teams, respectively, matched those numbers.

As for field-goal percentage, 21 teams this season are shooting it 45 percent or worse compared to 13 last season. Dallas' 43.1 shooting percentage would have ranked 29th last season, just one-hundredth of a point from being dead last.

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle suggested early on that he hoped his team's defense would be ahead of the offense. At the time it seemed odd just because it just figured that this team could always score while it would have to adjust defensively to the losses of Tyson Chandler and DeShawn Stevenson.

But Carlisle was right. The defense is light years ahead of an offense that can only keep shooting to cure its ills. If defense is all about effort and energy, than offense is about timing and rhythm and flow.

"Look, I'm not going to get into an excuse-fest about the compressed season," Carlisle said. "Everybody's dealing with the same thing. We/ve got to just continue to grind and get better."