The Mavericks were having trouble beating teams with winning records with
Nowitzki's injuries, knee and ankle sprains that will sideline the reigning MVP indefinitely, couldn't have occurred at a worse time. Dallas was already struggling to incorporate point guard
"The West is really crazy," Dallas coach
Now the Mavs must contend with the loss of Nowitzki (23.6 points, 8.8 rebounds), their leading scorer and rebounder, during the most pivotal stretch of the season. Over the next two weeks, Dallas will play two games against Golden State and one with Denver. A potential tiebreaker situation becomes critical in both cases. Dallas is 2-0 against the Warriors this season while splitting with the Nuggets. Winning all three games would be huge.
Can they do it? I have my doubts.
While the Mavs are scoring more and averaging more assists with Kidd in the lineup, they continue to struggle. Part of the reason is that teams have recognized that even with the sharpshooting Nowitzki on the floor, the Mavs are a poor perimeter-shooting team. As a result, defenses are packing the lane and making it difficult for Kidd to create off the dribble.
"Teams are playing five in the paint on us right now," Johnson told reporters Sunday.
There has also been a feeling of tension, however unintentional, between Johnson and Kidd. Johnson has been the primary play-caller since taking over for
Though Johnson's more traditional offense is different than the Nets' Princeton-based motion system, it doesn't take long for an experienced player like Kidd to learn it. Johnson has certainly loosened the reins more with Kidd than he did with Harris, but he has not given the 14-year veteran the freedom to run the offense, leading some to question how much Johnson trusts Kidd in that role.
Johnson has to trust Kidd now. In order for the Mavs to maintain their standing in Nowitzki's absence, Kidd must carry them. The Mavs must be a full-throttle running team.
It's the only way the Mavs can survive. And even then, there are no guarantees.