Mavs Monday Protest Donuts: Here's Why MFFL's Are Miffed
Luka Doncic didn't play. Kristaps Porzingis didn't play. And the Dallas Mavericks didn't play well enough in a loss at Atlanta. But as we start a new MFFL week, we see a certain NBA fire rekindled. Mavs Monday Donuts ...
DONUT 1: Hawks 111, Mavericks 107
Some fans took to Twitter to question the decision to sit Luka with a sore ankle and Kristaps with his recovering knee. The results may not back me up, but I believe the Mavericks made the smart bet on the second half of a back-to-back. They’d beaten Atlanta by 23 points on February 1 without Dončić or Porzingis in the lineup. There was no reason to believe they couldn’t do it again.
For most of the game, things were relatively smooth sailing. The Mavericks led for most of the game - often by double-digits. Every time the Hawks made a little run, the Mavericks dug back and created separation.
The Hawks needed everything to break their way to win this game and unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened. A bad call on Tim Hardaway Jr. took a possession away from the Mavericks. Then, there was that weird situation with the goaltending-call-that-wasn’t. (Read on, obviously.)
Add moments like that to the Hawks heating up a little and you get a game that came down to the final two possessions.
DONUT 2: The Mavs File a Protest
I made fun of the Houston Rockets a little bit this year for filing a protest after blowing a double-digit lead. I’m sure Rockets fans around the league will have their own fun with the Mavericks’ own protest (filed Sunday). Fair is fair. But, it’s worth noting that the NBA’s ruling against the Rockets talked about the ample time remaining for the Rockets to overcome that officiating mistake.
The Mavericks had no time to overcome the ref’s mistake in the 111-107 loss to the Hawks because that particular mistake came with 9.4 seconds remaining in a two-point game. The Mavericks successfully challenged a goaltending call, the call was overturned, but then also ruled an inadvertent whistle.
I have the same question that owner Mark Cuban asks on Twitter, “What were they reviewing?”
It’s worth mentioning that there was some other miserable officiating in the fourth quarter, including an out-of-bounds call on Tim Hardaway (though replays show he was nowhere near putting his heel down on the play).
DONUT 3: Bring on the Fines
There’s no question that Mark Cuban is going to be fined. He went off on the officiating during a game and he used Twitter (and more) to do it.
After breaking down the play that wound up being protested, he also talked about the broader issue with NBA officiating. He was critical of hiring practices, training methods, and said, “[the issues have] been going on for 20 years.”
Even if the Mavericks are successful with their protest and even if the NBA apologizes for the game-changing missed calls in the fourth quarter and even if we replay the 9.4 seconds (highly unlikely, as Fish notes here), that’s unlikely to shield Cuban from some kind of sanctions. My guess is Mark Cuban had a blank check made out to the league before he even fired off his first tweet.
DONUT 4: Rick and the Standings
Rick Carlisle says he’s not looking at the standings, which is probably bull ... but the sentiment that comes with it is sincere. Rick doesn’t care where the young Mavericks finish the regular season, he only cares that they make the playoffs with as many healthy bodies as possible. Notably, he wants to make sure that Luka and Porzingis are both available once the postseason tips off.
That said, I am watching the standings, so I’m happy to give props to Rick Carlisle’s continued success. The Mavericks’ win vs. Orlando was Rick’s 504th victory as coach of the Mavericks, moving him ahead of Rudy Tomjanovich to 13th-most wins coaching a single team. It was also his 785th win overall, which puts him alone at 16th all-time in coaching victories (passing Gene Shue).
He’s got a long way to go to pass Cotton Fitzsimmons’ 832 wins (and move to 15th all-time), but he could still unseat Gene Shue a second time this season. With 522 wins, Gene has the 12th most victories for a coach with one team. It’s pretty unlikely though. To pass him this year, Rick would need to finish this NBA season 19-6, which is a tall order for any NBA team.
DONUT 5: Brunson Hurt, then Confused
Because of the protest, people are gonna spend a lot of their time talking about the officiating in the fourth quarter. That’s fair, but the refs couldn’t wait to screw things up on Saturday night. On the very first play of the game, Brunson took this hit, which dislocated his shoulder.
Though he stayed in for the free throw, he never wound up back on the court. Most puzzling was that the officials didn’t even take a moment to review the play to see if it was a flagrant foul.
After the game, Brunson tweeted, “Soooooo what just happened.” I know he was asking about the final nine seconds of the game, but it was the evergreen question of the day. It was also fitting that the officials bookended the game with mediocrity.
DONUT 6: Courtney Lee is Probably Not the Answer
Courtney Lee plays hard and handles himself like the seasoned professional he is. He’s maintained a positive attitude through a lot of bench-warming and trade talk.
That doesn’t make him an ideal player to have on the floor for 21 minutes.
Lee had one point (thanks to 1-of-2 from the free-throw line), four rebounds, two assists, and two steals. He also committed four fouls and went 0-for-4 from the floor.
Dennis Smith Jr. got run out of town playing much better basketball than that. Ryan Broekhoff got cut playing better basketball than that. Lee’s athleticism is still there. His tenacity is still there. Maybe he’s just completely out of rhythm because he’s been sitting most of the season.
Ideally, the injury issues will improve for the Mavericks and Lee won’t need to be on the floor for 20 minutes too many times. But, if he’s going to be out there, somebody needs to remind him how to shoot the ball.
DONUT 7: Maxi Mood Swings
Maxi Kleber had a pretty good game against the Hawks. In 30 minutes he had nine points, eight rebounds, two assists, and five blocks. Not bad. But he also spent a lot of the game in foul trouble (eventually fouling out) which ate into the team’s already short bench. His defensive length would’ve been valuable in the fourth as the Hawks mounted their comeback. Even when he was on the floor he had to play cautiously to avoid his sixth foul—which is sometimes as bad as just fouling out.
On the other hand, he had a career scoring night on Friday against Orlando—though he wasn’t asked to do as much (he played only 23 minutes). He hit 10-of-13 shots for a career-high 26 points, added three rebounds, an assist, and a block. He also stayed out of foul trouble (committing only a single foul).
There’s an argument that the Mavericks would be better off with a lot more games like his stat line against Atlanta. No, he didn’t put as many points on the board, but he made a lot more glue plays. On the other hand, if Maxi scores 26 points every night, he might not need to rack up so many blocks on the other end.
DONUT 8: Has Tim Hardaway Jr. Become Irreplaceable?
Against the Magic, Hardaway Jr. shot 5-of-9 from the floor, had 16 points, six rebounds, and only one turnover in 33 minutes.
Against the Hawks, he was 11-of-22 for 33 points, four rebounds, five assists, and only two turnovers (and one of those turnovers came on a terrible call in the fourth quarter).
He’s improved his shooting to 40.6 percent from three this year and he’s hitting 80.3 percent of his free throws. Over his last ten games, those numbers are even better. 44.9 percent from three, 84.8 percent from the stripe, and nearly 20 points per game.
The Dallas Mavericks had already won the Kristaps Porzingis trade when THJ looked like a throw-in to match salary. Now that Tim Hardaway Jr. has emerged as an efficient top-tier scorer, the Mavericks may have flat-out embarrassed the Knicks front office.
DONUT 9: Luka and Porzingis Do it Again!
In case you worried that their success against the Kings was fleeting, they went out and replicated that dominance against the Orlando Magic.
Luka shot 10-of-21 for 33 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists, a steal, and a block. Porzingis shot 8-of-16 for 24 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, and five blocks.
It sucks that the Mavericks lost to Atlanta. It sucks that injuries will force two of their best players into cautious rest days for the rest of the season. But, if these two stay healthy and play efficiently together in June, we’ll forget about this loss to Atlanta as quickly as we got over those early losses to the New York Knicks.
DONUT 10: Bad Depth Perception
The Mavericks youth and depth has helped hide a lot of injury issues this season. It seems like every player on the roster has missed some time to injuries big and small. The spotlight of those injuries shines brighter when it keeps your top two players off the floor. Luka has missed about a dozen games thanks to his ankle injuries. Porzingis has missed over a dozen of his own. Plus, Dwight Powell is lost for the season.
Those losses are tough to mitigate no matter how much depth you have—but it gets even harder when an already depleted team faces new injuries and absences. Jalen Brunson will miss at least one more game thanks to his shoulder injury. Luka and Porzingis will likely be day-to-day - or at least on "load-management watch'' - for the rest of the season. Willie Cauley-Stein is about to miss the third game in a row for “personal reasons”—which can mean so many things that I don’t even have the energy to speculate.
With shrinking depth, this already shorthanded team will have to work twice as hard during back-to-backs going forward. One possible Bandaid is to start Luka one night of a back-to-back and Porzingis the other. That would ensure they have at least one of their stars on the court to create matchup problems.
DONUT 11: Up Next - The Timberwolves
If you think it matters that the Timberwolves have only a single win in their last 18 games, you clearly haven’t watched the Dallas Mavericks play basketball this year. The Mavericks are just as likely to take it to the Bucks as they are to lose in overtime to the Hornets.
If Luka and Kristaps both suit up tonight, I expect the Mavericks to win easily. That doesn’t mean they will. After all, the Mavericks lost to the Suns by nearly 30 points at home last month, and that was with Luka on the floor. The Mavericks have barely kept their heads above water at home all season (where they’re currently 15-14), so it’s hard to predict success without making the sign of the cross and throwing salt over my shoulder.
Still, the Timberwolves aren’t just losing. They’re reeling. The only thing keeping them out of the basement in the Western Conference is their long-forgotten 4-1 start to the season and an injury-plagued Golden State Warriors team that’s been planning their 2020 tank-job since Klay Thompson got hurt in the NBA Finals.
I predict the Mavericks will get back to two games above .500 tonight. But I won’t bet any money on it. I will bet money that Fish, TJ, Galatzan and our newest DBcom staffer, Bri Amaranthus, will be at the AAC for all the fireworks.
DONUT 12: The Final Word