After suffering an extremely tough overtime loss at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday, the Mavericks find themselves in the midst of a season-high four-game losing streak.
A look at O.J. Mayo’s production drop-off during that stretch will show you the precise reason why.
Mayo was a huge bright spot for Dallas while Dirk Nowitzki spent the first part of the season sidelined due to injury. Largely playing at an All-Star level, he was in the top 10 in the league in scoring, and regularly took games over offensively to give his team a chance.
Over the last four games, however, Mayo’s offense has essentially disappeared. And Nowitzki believes his teammate’s confidence might momentarily be gone, as well.
The media-friendly Mayo didn’t attempt to explain his struggles after Thursday night’s loss, slipping out of the locker room while coach Rick Carlisle was talking to reporters.
However, Dirk Nowitzki had plenty to say about the man who had been filling his shoes as the Mavs’ go-to guy until recently.
“Juice gotta go back to playing the way he was when I was out,” Nowitzki said. “I don’t know what’s been going on lately. It looks like he doesn’t have the confidence.
“But we depend on him. He’s got the ability. He showed it early in the year. He’s gotta make plays for us down the stretch as long as I’m not all the way there.”
Nowitzki has been back in the Mavs’ lineup for just the last two games. But he’s on a minutes limit, coming off the bench, and is nowhere near back to playing at the level we all know he is capable of.
Nowitzki didn’t even look for the ball down the stretch in Oklahoma City on Thursday, preferring instead to let Darren Collison create and attack, or let Mayo try to find his way.
Dallas will need Mayo to return to form sooner rather than later, especially while Nowitzki is working his way back in a relatively limited role. Obviously, the 7.3 points and 4.5 turnovers that Mayo has averaged during this four-game stretch simply isn’t going to get it done.
Mayo does best when he’s heavily involved offensively, getting a high volume of shots to allow him to get fully immersed in the flow of the game. It’s true defenses have begun to key on him more, but if Collison can play with a measure of consistency and create open looks for him, that should help.
Most importantly, Mayo needs to play as if this is his team, not Dirk’s. That’s much easier said than done, of course, especially with Nowitzki back in the lineup. But it’s true, at least until Nowitzki is at 100 percent. Mayo just needs to realize it.