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Mavs’ Voices of Reason: Coach Kidd Praises Defensive Leadership of Finney-Smith & Kleber

With Dallas' defense on the decline to start the year, Dorian Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber have spoken up to help lead the charge.

The Dallas Mavericks (25-22) have been inconsistent to say the least so far this season, specifically on the defensive end. 

In 2023, the Mavs rank 26th in the league in defensive rating, allowing 120.3 points per game following allowing just 90 points to the Miami Heat in Friday's victory. Prior to Friday's win, Dallas ranked 29th in January. 

The concern is real, as both Jason Kidd and Luka Doncic voiced their discontent following allowing over 130 points for the third-straight game in Wednesday's loss to Atlanta. 

"If it’s with this personnel, you have to keep asking or demanding for those guys to play defense. It’s not, you know, just the offensive end and tonight, again we gave up 130. The team shot 57 percent … It’s a shootaround," Kidd said after Wednesday's 130-122 loss. "You know in this case, in this league you do that no matter if you have Luka [Doncic], or Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] or Lebron [James], you’re going to lose.

But, perhaps the tides will begin to turn following Friday's stout defensive performance against the Miami Heat, as Kidd voiced postgame that two Mavericks have stepped up more as leaders on defense lately.

"I thought Doe said it after the game and yesterday that our defense has to be better," Kidd said of Finney-Smith. 

The return of Finney-Smith, who missed 14 games with a left hip adductor, is crucial to Dallas' defense, as he's the primary defender of the opposing team's best player on most nights. 

For Kidd, the other voice was Maxi Kleber.

"I thought Maxi's voice yesterday in film was right on. Some said that's the most he's talked in the time that he's been here," Kidd said of Kleber. "But that was right on watching film. He said a lot of stuff that hit home with everybody."

Kleber is the straw that stirs the drink for Dallas' defense with his versatility to guard bigs but also step out on the perimeter. The six-year veteran has yet to return from the lineup as he rehabs from hamstring surgery but said he's hoping to be back prior to the All-Star break. 

Once Dallas is fully healthy and in full swing, look for their defense to start climbing up the rankings again.

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