Close but not enough: Three takeaways from Monday’s 111-106 loss to the Mavericks

Jan 2, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) reacts to a fan as Houston Rockets forward Jabari Smith Jr. (1) attempts a free throw during the second quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Close but not enough: Three takeaways from Monday’s 111-106 loss to the Mavericks

The Rockets opened the 2023 portion of their schedule with a 111-106 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Monday, for their fourth straight loss and ninth in 10 games. Kevin Porter Jr. finished with 25 points, but the Rockets couldn’t contain Luka Doncic, who scored 39 points, 29 in the second half. Former Rocket Christian Wood scored 21 but might’ve had a bigger impact on the defensive end of the floor.

Marginal improvement

After a pair of dreadful games to end 2022, the Rockets showed improvement against the Mavericks, especially at the offensive end of the floor, where they shot 47% from the field and finished with an assist/turnover ratio of better than 2-1.

“I wanted it for these guys,” Rockets guard Eric Gordon said. “We started off the game the right way, played well, and the game did get tough in the end and things weren’t really going our way in the second half, but I like how we fought.”

The Rockets scored 87 points through three quarters, but the well dried up in the game’s last 12 minutes as they were held to just 19 points on 33% shooting.

Jalen Green’s 5-of-17 night from the field hurt, and the Rockets bench combined to make just 6 of their 17 shots.

Limiting turnovers

Two nights after committing 25 turnovers against the Knicks, the Rockets took care of the basketball and gave it away on just 10 occasions, a season-low. The Rockets finished the game’s first 15 minutes with just one turnover, then committed three in a row, but that was the exception.

“10 turnovers is great, especially against a good defensive team,” Rockets head coach Stephen Silas said. ”

The Rockets entered the game with a 17.2% turnover, worst in the NBA, but had shown signs of progress before Saturday’s game.

Luka comes alive after quiet first half

Luka Doncic entered the game averaging over 42 points during the Mavs six-game win streak, which included three 50-point games. The Rockets slowed him down in the first half, holding him to 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting, but he scored 19 points in the second half and finished with 39 for the game.

Doncic shot just 10-of-26 from the field, 1-of-9 from behind the 3-point line, but the Rockets could not keep him off the foul line. The Mavs star shot 18-of-22 from the charity stripe, with 18 of those attempts coming after halftime, 12 in the third quarter alone.

“The issue was the fouls and the … I don’t have enough money to get fined, so I’ll just stop there,” Rockets head coach Stephen Silas said.

Next up

The Rockets will travel to New Orleans on Wednesday night to take on the Pelicans in the first back-to-back game.

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