The Dallas Mavericks aren’t off to a great start. Dropping their first few games and facing a daunting schedule, the team needs to start improving and fast. While a number of areas need work, perhaps the most pressing issue facing Dallas is rebounding.
In their first three games, the Mavs’ opponents dominated the glass, out-rebounding Dallas by an average of 14.3 boards. The most egregious game came against Sacramento, when the visiting Kings pulled down 21 more rebounds than the Mavs, 57-36. Even though Dallas kept it somewhat close, Sacramento pulled away late, winning 93-88.
“I think this season is going to be a lot of games like tonight,” Harrison Barnes said after the loss. “It’s going to be close. It’s going to come down to a couple stops, a couple rebounds here and there. Throughout the course of the game, we went big and we still got out-rebounded so it’s more of an effort and a focus as opposed to lineups and personnel and that type of thing.”
Head coach Rick Carlisle is doing what he can, preaching rebounding as a team effort this season and his players hear the message. After the home opener, rookie Dennis Smith Jr., who otherwise made a remarkable NBA debut, was disappointed with his effort on the glass.
“Rebounding,” Smith Jr. emphasized. “I didn’t contribute enough, and that was a focal point coming into the game. I didn’t do my part on that.”
Even if the players acknowledge they need to do better, the results haven’t changed. To put their rebounding woes into perspective, the Mavs give up the most rebounds per game in the league. At the same time, they hover around the middle of the pack in securing boards. The more rebounds opponents collect, they more opportunities they have to score. That’s especially true when Dallas gives up offensive rebounds. Opponents average 12.7 offensive boards against the Mavs through three games. It’s the third-worst mark in the league.
The Mavs’ rebounding struggles are nothing new, unfortunately. Last season, the Mavericks were the worst rebounding team in the league. However, they weren’t letting opponents mop the floor with them on the boards as they have this season.
“We can’t kind of get in these vacuums where say, ‘OK, Nerlens we need you to go out there and get all the rebounds for us or J.J. you have to go get all the assists for us,’” Barnes said after the loss to the Kings. “Everyone’s got to pitch in on that.”
With a guard-heavy roster, rebounding wasn’t going to be the team's strong suit. Even with it being emphasized to a man, significant improvements haven’t panned out. Not yet, at least. The sample size is still small. Nevertheless, something has to give and soon. The Mavericks cannot afford to continue to get beat on the glass by double digits nightly.
“We’ve just all got to get in there and find a way to scrap it out,” Dirk Nowitzki said.
If they don’t, it’ll be another season where winning is rare.
You can follow Doyle Rader on Twitter at @TheKobeBeef.