Mavs can score, but D's letting them down

The Dallas Mavericks faded Saturday night in the Valley of the Sun, as they were once again unable to provide energy on the defensive end of the floor.

It was evident the Mavericks were on the second night of a back-to-back set; they were abused whenever the Phoenix Suns drove into the lane during the 123-108 victory over Dallas. Phoenix, which also was on the second night of a back-to-back, was relentless and the Mavericks were ill-prepared.

Former Maverick Gerald Green led the charge for the Suns in going 3-of-3 from 3-point range early, as Phoenix hit seven 3s in the first quarter.

The Mavericks played both man-to-man and zone on defense. It didn’t matter; the dribble drives continued all night long for the Suns. The simple act of penetrating toward the rim put Dallas in a bind, and led to a negative sequence of events that ended with the Mavericks scrambling.

“We’ve just got to do better,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle told reporters after the game. “I think our biggest challenge right now is staying disciplined in a lot of defensive situations. We’ve had too many gambles, too many fouls and too many things that lead to chain reactions that we have got to eliminate.”

Just one night after Mavericks forward Shawn Marion said that the team had to “collectively own” the struggles on defense, the team gave up 123 points against the Suns. Green and Eric Bledsoe each scored more than 20 points, while Channing Frye posted 18.

The Mavericks knew Phoenix was going to be ready to shoot from long range, but they were still unable to slow the barrage. The Suns went 12-of-34 from deep in their come-from-behind victory against the Denver Nuggets on Friday night and followed that up with a 15-of-30 performance against the Mavericks. In another defensive letdown, the 45 points off 3s were the most the Mavericks have allowed this season. Phoenix was able to capitalize on Dallas’ shaky defense by forcing the Mavs to switch on pick-and-rolls and creating mismatches.

Last week, Carlisle said his team had been spending roughly 20 percent of its practice time on offense. It wasn’t due to the improvisational form of the Mavericks’ flow offense, he said -- it was due to the fact that their defense has been so bad. It appears that the team will have to go back to the drawing board there.

With a frustrating loss at home to the Toronto Raptors the previous night, the Mavericks didn’t do themselves any favors in Phoenix on Saturday. That said, Carlisle didn’t think his team was overly lethargic.

“I thought we were OK,” he said. “I think our bigger issues aren’t fatigue. I think they have more to do with being disciplined, just staying the course with the simple aspects in our game. We’re going to work to shore those things up.”

The Mavericks will have to be creative in fixing those issues as they move into the second quarter of the season. They’ve shown they are susceptible to bad defensive tendencies, and to taking their foot off the pedal when they build a big lead. It’s a pretty simple message that Carlisle will have for his team.

“It’s a 48-minute game, and we’ve got to be better from start to finish,” he said. “We’ve got to be able to be able to sustain to maintain.”

Dallas has now lost four of its past six games, and the competition wasn’t as strong this weekend as it will be in the days ahead, as the Mavericks get set to face the Houston Rockets and the defending Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs.

The Mavericks tallied 108 points on the road and on the second night of a back-to-back, but they lost. They’ve shown that they can score, but their shortcomings on defense are quickly becoming an issue they can’t run away from.