It’s no secret, in the NBA, effort matters.

Friday night’s 120-101 loss to the Utah Jazz put into perspective the effort -or lack thereof- the Mavericks have played with during its four-game losing streak.

After the game, Luka Doncic couldn’t muster a positive word about how Dallas played.

“There is not much to say,” Doncic said. “We got to do something because this is not looking good.

“… it is mostly effort.”

And Doncic is right. The problem with Dallas isn’t structural, it’s internal. The Mavs can’t seem to muster a consistent week of effort from all of its key players. And that continued sense of apathy is causing the season to slip right out of reach. It’s not early anymore. The NBA season is a quarter of the way through. Yet, it’s also not late into the season. But if things don’t turn around soon, Dallas will find itself on the outside looking in when the playoffs start. And with a player as talented as Luka Doncic, a non-playoff year, is a year wasted.

“It’s looking like we don’t care, honestly, if we win games or not,” Doncic said. “We need more energy, more effort, everything.”

The talent on Dallas’ roster is better than its record suggests. But the effort level of the players on the roster is every bit deserving of the 8-11 record. Apathy kills great teams. The Mavs are staring its apathy problem in the face, and if internally, something doesn’t change, this season will end in nothing but disappointment.

The game by the numbers:

The Jazz blitzed the Mavericks in the first quarter, nailing eight threes on 15 attempts. Dallas allowed Jordan Clarkson and Joe Ingles to hit three and two three-point jump shots in the first frame of action.

These weren’t difficult shots. Dallas allowed Utah’s shooters to catch the ball in rhythm, rise up, and fire. On defense, the Mavs had no conviction. It’s almost as if they accepted a loss as soon as the game started. And it showed on the scoreboard. By the end of the first quarter, Dallas trailed Utah 37-12

Honestly, the team never recovered. Dallas tied together a decent second quarter, but every run attempted was answered. And by the fourth quarter, the Mavs had accepted its fate.

The game was like a heavy-weight fight where one of the fighters gets knocked down in the first only to get up, still dazed, and try to carry on. At the moment those watching laud the fighters’ efforts, but in reality, the rest of the match is a formality. You know the second knockdown is coming, it’s just a matter of when it will happen. That was Dallas Friday night. Dazed after the first, the rest of the game was short of the Mavs’ best efforts. And the knockout blow came in the third quarter – sealing any hope of a comeback win.

Looking ahead:

Doncic finished with his customary 25 points, seven assists, and six rebounds. Kristaps Porzingis finished with just 11 points. Tim Hardaway Jr. finished with two points in 26 minutes. The second-leading scorer on the game for Dallas was Jalen Brunson who notched 13 points on 4-7 shooting.

The Mavericks have an effort problem. And to fix it, the team first has to decide if it truly wants to compete on a nightly basis. Wins, in the NBA, aren’t handed out for showing up, Dallas has to earn them. It’s time that those in the locker room look each other in the eye and say, “we have to be better.” If they don’t, the Mavs and its fans will keep seeing more of the same going forward.

The previous Dallas Mavericks Journal. 

Feature image via  Russell Isabella-USA TODAY Sports