Kidd: Mavs’ defense gave Atlanta ‘a shootaround’ in 130-122 Hawks win

Kidd: Mavs’ defense gave Atlanta ‘a shootaround’ in 130-122 Hawks win

A tear that scratched the sky meant more tears for the Mavericks on Wednesday night.

Atlanta’s Trae Young drove to the basket and lofted a floater high over the arms of Christian Wood who nestled in the basket with 41.1 seconds left, setting the Hawks on their way to a 130-122 victory over the Mavericks at the American Airlines Center.

Coming home and returning two of their best defensemen couldn’t change the troubling trend regarding the Mavericks’ defense, which once again let them down in a big way as the Hawks couldn’t be stopped down the stretch.

With the Hawks up 121-120, they got a three-pointer by Dejounte Murray before Spencer Dinwiddie rattled off a three-pointer. Then came Young’s drive. Murray finished with 30 points, the same as Luka Dončić.

The Mavericks weren’t completely dead. Dončić missed a three-pointer, but Dorian Finney-Smith, back after missing 14 games with a groin injury, followed it up with a one-handed stop.

But with 24.5 seconds left, Young made a pair of free throws.

We’ve seen the Mavericks come back before in the waning seconds, but it wasn’t meant to be this time.

In his quick postgame discussion, coach Jason Kidd couldn’t have been more direct about the issues plaguing the Mavericks.

“If it’s with this personnel, you’ve got to keep asking or demanding that guys play defense,” Kidd said. “It’s not just the offensive end. Tonight, give up 130, a team shooting 57 percent. It’s a shooting.

“In this league, if you do that, whether you have Luka or Kareem or LeBron, you’re going to lose. It doesn’t matter how many points you score. you’re always going to come up short. So until we make a better effort to play defense and understand what we have to do, we’re going to score 120, but we’re going to give up 130 or 140. One night we might give up 150. But we It’s going to to go well because we scored, so it doesn’t look too bad.”

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The Mavericks were coming off a 1-4 trip in which Portland had scored 276 points in the last two games of the trip.

This game wasn’t too bad. But after giving up 40 points in the first quarter, the tone was set. The Mavericks gave up 65 points in each half.

A game that had been close throughout came down to the Mavericks needing a late rally. Atlanta eased ahead 121-113 with less than four minutes remaining.

But the Mavericks got it back within 121-120 before the Hawks sealed the deal.

For practically the entire game, it required eye strain to find such defense being played.

“You have to play defense,” Kidd said. “And right now we’re not playing any defense.”

Not that the fight wasn’t physical. Players hit the deck left and right, including Dončić, who spent time grabbing his lower left leg, left wrist/hand/elbow and various other body parts during the game. Christian Wood was hacked on the hand and had it taped to finish the game.

And yet they continued to work. Wood finished with 22 points and Dinwiddie chipped in 20. But the Mavericks rocked all night.

It was the first game back for Josh Green as well as Finney-Smith and both had good flashes.

“I thought Doe and Josh both did a really good job in their first games back,” Kidd said.

This was a match between two teams that rebuilt a few years ago and experienced success perhaps sooner than they expected.

The Hawks were in the Eastern Conference finals two seasons ago. The Mavericks were in the West finals last year.

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That’s one time each Luka Dončić and Trae Young have gone deep into the playoffs.

But the season after Atlanta’s run, they fell sharply. And so far, the Mavericks haven’t shown the same strong play they did last year after the All-Star break.

Still plenty of season left, of course. But Hawks coach Nate McMillan said it’s not a given that any franchise will have success from one year to the next.

“You always want to be better (in a season) than you were before that, but when you have that kind of success sometimes it’s hard,” McMillan said. “To get to the Eastern Conference finals or win a championship, a lot of things have to go right for you.

“I think one of the biggest things is health. Sometimes it can creep into the next season and you’re not as healthy as you were. It’s a different year. There’s a lot of factors that come into play.”

As both of these teams can confirm. Neither is having a big season, although both teams are solidly in the postseason picture.

That said, the defense from both teams left a lot to be desired on Wednesday. But more so on Mav’s side.

Twitter: @ESefko

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