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Mavs Takes: Dallas Needs Better Efficiency From Luka Doncic

The Dallas Mavericks, despite having won seven of their last nine games, need Luka Doncic to find his usual, dominant self in order to take the next step in the Western Conference. Here are three big Mavs takes.

The Dallas Mavericks ended up having their six-game win streak come to an end after losing 108-85 to the New York Knicks on Wednesday night. 

It was a sluggish outing for the Mavericks, to put it nicely, as they never managed to outscore the Knicks in any of the four quarters. With Kristaps Porzingis still out due to the NBA's health and safety protocols, superstar Luka Doncic struggled to carry the load while getting minimal contributions from his supporting cast.

Now, let's take a look at three big Mavs takes.

The Mavericks Need More From Luka Doncic

Saying the Mavs need more form Luka Doncic almost seems blasphemous, given what he's been able to do with the supporting cast he's been dealt through his first four NBA season... But the expectations that come with signing a supermax deal are high, and Doncic is no exception to that rule.

When evaluating his production as a whole this season, his averages of 24.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 8.8 assists look great, but his efficiency (or lack thereof) has been concerning. Against the Knicks, Doncic finished with just 21 points while going 8-of-23 (34.8 percent) from the field, 1-of-9 (11.1 percent) from deep, and 4-of-6 (66.7 percent) on free throws. He turned it over five times, too.

Through five games so far in 2022, Doncic is shooting just 37.5 percent overall and 22.9 percent from deep. Whether it's him not being in top game shape yet, the constant ankle injuries slowing him down, or the new Wilson basketball, the Mavs are hoping Doncic can figure things out sooner than later.

Doncic is producing just 0.881 points per possession (excludes passing) this season. When compared to the other 55 players with at least 600 possessions so far this season, he ranks 52nd, ahead of only Reggie Jackson, Julius Randle, Russell Westbrook, and Cade Cunningham.

Simply put, the Mavericks need Doncic to be a more efficient scorer going forward if they plan on winning big in the playoffs, especially with how the unit as a whole has struggled often to convert from deep on a consistent basis.

Next up, Doncic will face-off against Ja Morant, who recently surpassed him in NBA All-Star voting, and the red-hot Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night.

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'No Participation Trophies': Great Defense Now Expected With Mavs, Not Hoped For

The Dallas Mavericks used to be seen as an all-offense, no-defense kind of team, but thanks to Jason Kidd and his coaching staff, that perception has changed in the blink of an eye.

It's difficult to win an NBA game in this day and age when a team shoots just 8-of-37 (21.6 percent) from beyond the arc as the Mavericks did on Wednesday night. Outside of Maxi Kleber, who finished 3-of-8 (37.5 percent), the Mavericks shot 5-of-29 (17.2 percent) with plenty of key players having a rough shooting night. 

The highest volume shooters are supposed to set the floor for the team as a whole. The combination of not having both of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis available, and not converting at an acceptable clip from beyond the arc as a team, significantly impacts the Mavericks' overall shooting numbers.

Since Dec. 1, there have been 146 players averaging four attempts from three-point range with a minimum of eight games played. Among that group, Doncic (25.3 percent) and Porzingis (24.6 percent) rank within the bottom five in three-point percentage.

For a team that greatly depends on superstar play from Doncic, including his initiation and playmaking, role players not being able to knock down open catch-and-shoot opportunities will likely result in a loss.

No Answer For RJ Barrett; Defense Slipped

Entering this matchup, the Mavericks held the top defensive rating in the NBA since Dec. 11, but they were unable to slow down the Knicks enough to overcome a poor night of offensive execution.

The Mavericks simply had no answer for RJ Barrett in this one, who finished with 32 points on 13-of-22 (59.0 percent) from the field and 4-of-7 (57.1 percent) from the perimeter. Additionally, each of the Knicks' starters managed to reach double-figure scoring.

Barrett knocked down a trio of contested looks out of spot-up situations, but did most of his damage using ball screens getting to the rim. He showed some intriguing flashes of potential at times between posting up Jalen Brunson for a jumper using his height advantage and using a ball screen for a mid-range post-up.

The side-step three-pointer that Barrett dropped in with just over a minute left to play was the final exclamation point on an overall brilliant night. The Mavericks couldn't slow him down and it proved costly.

It was always going to be challenging for the Mavericks to sustain the outstanding results on defense that they had seen over the last couple of weeks. This team needs more on the offensive end of the floor to balance things out. Perhaps Dallas can achieve this before the NBA trade deadline.