The Dallas Mavericks' rough start to the 2020-2021 regular season continued on Christmas Day when they fell to LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers 138-115 in front of a national audience.
Despite getting off to a much better offensive start than they did in Wednesday's regular-season opener, Dallas's struggles continued in other critical areas on Friday. Most significantly, their lack of rebounding and defensive grit seems to be more prevalent than ever, even after a transformative offseason.
"We've gotta get tougher,'' coach Rick Carlisle said.
Obviously, those shortcomings have been compounded without Kristaps Porzignis in the lineup, but in a shortened season where each game counts just a little bit more than, the room for excuses is minimal.
In substitution of Porzingis, Dwight Powell once again got the start at center. And once again, he was less than effective, finishing the game with a -11, and scoring 11 points, while grabbing just three rebounds in 24 minutes of action.
In an attempt to remedy the issue, Carlisle opted to go to veteran big man Boban Marjanovic for a stretch in the fourth quarter, though he also proved to be largely ineffective in his time on the floor.
Mavs superstar Luka Doncic, who had a rough time of it in his own right in the season-opener, seemed to still be adjusting to the new start of the regular season as well, though he still put up an impressive stat line of 27 points, seven assists, and four rebounds in a team-high 34 minutes.
Doncic was able to get more help on the offensive end on Friday, however, with five other players scoring in double figures, including 17 points each from Trey Burke and Josh Richardson. Dallas also added 10 points apiece from Tim Hardaway Jr., Dorian Finney-Smith, and 11 from the aforementioned Powell.
Still, it was rebounding and poor performances on the defensive end of the floor that was the crux of the problem for Dallas, who allowed the Lakers to hit 55.6-percent from the floor, and 47.4-percent from beyond the arc.
Los Angeles also out-rebounded the Mavs by a massive margin of 53-27, including 17 rebounds on the offensive end, leading to far too many second-chance points.
As a result, LeBron James had his way with the Mavs finishing with a line of 22 points, 10 assists, and seven rebounds, while Anthony Davis added a team-high 28 points, to go along with eight rebounds and five assists of his own.
Dennis Shroeder, who the Lakers added this past offseason, also contributed 18 points in 24 minutes, while Montrezl Harrell added 22 points and seven boards off of the bench.
The standout stat? The Lakers' 35-0 advantage in second-chance points. Zero. "Gotta get tougher,'' indeed.
Now sitting at 0-2 on the season, the Mavericks will have another tough test ahead of them on Sunday night, as they stay in Los Angeles to take on Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, and the Clippers at the Staples Center.
Unless Dallas can get these issues under control by then, they will be looking down the barrel of their first 0-3 start since the 2017-18 season, when the team started 0-5, and finished the season 24-58.
Said Luka of the Mavs' 0-2 start: "I'm not surprised at all. You can't win a game when second-chance points is 35-0. It's as simple as that. If we box out, we win the game."
We're not so sure of that. But no doubt, if the Mavs learn to "box out'' - and to "get tougher'' - they won't lose a category 35-0. That would be a start.