DALLAS — Jason Kidd started Moses Brown in the absence of Willie Cauley-Stein Monday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

And in Dallas’ (10-9) 114-96 loss to Cleveland (11-10), Brown showcased that he still isn’t ready to play long-term, meaningful minutes as the starting center on the Mavericks.

“He’ll learn,” Kidd said of Brown’s starting performance. “He’ll get better.”

Brown played 11 minutes, scored two points, grabbed two rebounds, and was placed in the torture chamber by Jarrett Allen on multiple occasions. He looked every bit as raw and unpolished as Kidd said he was at the start of the season.

He’s no Tyson Chandler — yet. In fact, he’s far off from becoming that anytime soon. Everyone was quick to bring up Brown’s gaudy stat lines he piled up in Oklahoma City during the 2020-21 season. But those numbers were coming on a team that’s primary mission was to lose games. Dallas’ goal, this season, was to compete amongst the best in the NBA.

And with Brown in the starting lineup, Dallas’ struggles to keep opponents out of the paint were still present amidst his size. Cleveland scored 60 points in the paint and outrebounded Dallas by 15 (48-33).

Allen was the primary reason Cleveland had its way in the paint. Dallas felt every bit of his 28 points and 14 rebounds. And the Mavericks had no answer when he stretched the defense with his vertical leaping ability.

“Allen was the key to their win today,” Luka Doncic, who tallied a 25-point triple-double, said after the game. “Their whole team played great. So we just got to control our emotions and we got to be better on defense.

“We just got to fix that.”

Dallas’ frontcourt issues 

However, those problems don’t fall squarely on Brown’s shoulders.

As a whole, Dallas’ frontcourt was simply out-manned throughout Monday’s contest. It didn’t help that Kristaps Porzingis twisted his ankle midway through the game. But by that point, Cleveland was already attacking the weak, and at times nonexistent, Dallas defense.

At the point of attack, on back-cuts and drives to the rim, Dallas has no deterrent around the basket. And it is something Kidd said Dallas needs to work on moving forward.

“It is something we have to address because defensively we’ve been a nonfactor,” Kidd said. “We just got to try to keep the ball in front of us, and not try and go for steals, and just be solid.”

Looking ahead

In the last six games, Dallas is 1-5. As a whole, it hasn’t looked great on the offensive or defensive end. To right the ship, it starts with Dallas controlling the paint and being active on defense.

After that, Dallas’ offense needs to find itself again. And offense starts with making shots consistently — something that’s been hard to come by for the Mavericks of late.

“The biggest thing is that you can’t feel sorry for yourself,” Kidd said. “No one in this league is going to feel sorry for you. You have to continue to work on your craft. And no one ever says it’s easy to make shots, but we are getting wide-open shots — it’s just not going in.”

The shots have to start falling sooner rather than later, or Dallas will dig itself a hole too deep to climb out of this season.

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Feature image via Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports.