Two different franchises both searching to figure out exactly who they are met at the American Airlines Center on Saturday night. Though both are in a state of flux, their current situations aren’t necessarily due to the same circumstances.
The Dallas Mavericks are still attempting to stay afloat while they wait on the return of superstar power forward Dirk Nowitzki. The frustrating thing for the Mavericks is that the identity they’re looking for can’t possibly be found until Nowitzki starts playing again. OJ Mayo has been tremendous while averaging 22.2 points per game on 50% shooting and Darren Collison has had his moments with 14 points per game complemented with 6.5 assists. The latter of those two has had the spotlight on him recently, as the Mavs’ success is almost directly tied to him playing well.
“When he’s aggressive, we’re a great team,” Mavs owner Mark Cuban said of Collison before tipoff on Saturday night. “He doesn’t realize how good of a scorer he is.”
Still, the continuity they want will only come from consistent performances from those players alongside Nowitzki. Obviously, that won’t be possible for at least another few weeks, as Nowitzki announced his return won’t come until well into December
On the other hand, there’s the Los Angeles Lakers. The always well-documented Lakers made waves early this season when they fired Coach Mike Brown after only five games and a 1-4 start. Much was made of Brown’s Princeton offense not fitting his superstar personnel, so Mike D’Antoni of ‘Seven Seconds or Less’ Phoenix Suns fame was brought in. Similarly to the Mavs, the Lakers have the built-in injury excuse as Steve Nash recovers from a fractured leg suffered in the first couple games of the season. Once he returns, the hope is that eventually reuniting D’Antoni with Nash will ignite an offense that includes Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Metta World Peace.
That being said, their offense didn’t appear to be a problem tonight.
Coming into Dallas without a win on the road this season, the Lakers were poised to end that streak. Despite missing their top two point guards, the Lakers had their way with the Mavericks. Los Angeles had their season high in points for a half by dropping 65 in the first two quarters on Saturday. World Peace started the game by making six straight shots to set the tone for how the night would go.
After a few laughable defensive performances from the Mavericks, Rick Carlisle has been more vocal recently about tightening up that end of the floor. The message was not received by his team as they basically allowed the Lakers to do whatever they wanted. After giving up 115 to the Lakers tonight, allowing them to cruise to a 115-89 victory, the Mavericks have allowed 226 total points to their opponents over the last two games. It’s a safe bet that Carlisle will again be quite vocal about defense over the next few days.
Dirk Nowitzki’s eventual return will fix a lot of things for the Mavs. Giving up 113 points per game on the defensive end isn’t one of them. There is quite a bit of work to be done in Dallas if the Mavs plan on making the playoffs in a stacked Western Conference.