As confident as the Dallas Mavericks seemed to be throughout the NBA preseason, we think it’s safe to say that the guys in that locker room probably didn’t expect to be sitting at 0-2 after their first two games of this new season.
The Mavs opened the season with a 106-102 loss to the Phoenix Suns, then followed that with a demoralizing 138-115 drubbing at the hands of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas Day. Although Dallas has a handful of things they need to fine-tune as a team going forward, rebounding is the biggest issue at hand.
READ MORE: 'We Gotta Get Tougher' - Carlisle
"Rebounding is a problem,” said head coach Rick Carlisle after watching his team get out-rebounded 53-27 by the Lakers. “It's a concern. So, we've got to look at that."
More specifically, though, offensive rebounds killed the Mavs more than anything, as the Lakers grabbed 17 offensive boards that led to a 35-0 advantage in second-chance points.
“I don't think I've ever seen a game where a team has given up 35 second-chance points and gotten zero,” said Carlisle. “Obviously, it's the story of the game.”
Rebounding was an issue in the season-opener against the Suns, but it was amplified in a big way against the defending champion Lakers. If the Mavs hope to establish themselves as a title contender this season, they’ll have to address this issue in a hurry.
Even without Kristaps Porzingis, a team should never be as embarrassed on the boards as the Mavs were on Christmas Day. And as good as Doncic is at grabbing rebounds by himself, that particular stat is a team stat that is mostly effort-driven. Porzingis coming back and Doncic putting up triple-doubles would help, but it wouldn’t ‘fix’ the issue for the team overall. Dwight Powell, Maxi Kleber and Willie Cauley-Stein are all at least 6-10 in height. In a combined 58 minutes of action for those three players against the Lakers, they had a grand total of 10 rebounds. ... That just can’t happen.
"I'm not surprised a lot,” said Doncic about the Mavs’ rebounding woes. “You can't win a game when you give up 35 second-chance points to zero. ... We've got to box out."
Mavs newcomer Josh Richardson, who finished with 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting against the Lakers, had his own take on what the team needs to tweak going forward.
"I think a lot of it comes from us turning and running to the rim when the shot goes up and not looking for bodies,” said Richardson.
Indeed, the majority of the Lakers’ 17 rebounds came off of missed threes where the ball hit hard off the rim and bounced back towards the three-point line. Instead of having every player crash to the basket on a shot, perhaps the Mavs can make an adjustment to have a couple of players on ‘long rebound’ watch.
Whatever adjustments the Mavs are thinking of making, they need to do it sooner that later. Because if adjustment in strategy and effort doesn’t fix the issue, then perhaps shaking up the roster a little bit is what they’ll need to turn to.
"I see a lot of possessions that we show a level of tenacity that's necessary,” said Carlisle. “But too many that we don't."
Starting the season 0-2 is by no means a death sentence, but in a shortened season, the importance of every game is magnified. The Mavs’ rebounding incompetence is now magnified after what transpired on Friday night at Staples Center, and it’ll become the No. 1 focus as Dallas prepares for another tough game against the Clippers in a Sunday matinee showdown.