DALLAS — Defense came first for the Dallas Mavericks against the Brooklyn Nets Tuesday night.

However, in Dallas’ 102-99 loss, the offense never showed up to play  — again. And that appears to be a common theme for the season and in Dallas’ recent three-game losing skid.

“The shots just aren’t going in,” Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd said. “Our defense gave us an opportunity to win the game… We had a lot of wide-open opportunities in the fourth quarter that just didn’t go down.”

The game — for Dallas (11-12) — was typified by Tim Hardaway Jr.’s open, game-tying, 3-point jump shot that — from the moment it left his hand — felt like it had no chance of going in.

“You can’t have a better look,” Kidd said. “It just didn’t go down.”

Kidd’s right, Dallas couldn’t have had a better look to send the game to overtime. Yet, on a night where Dallas shot 19 percent from three (9-46) and 40 percent from the floor (36-90), Hardaway might as well have taken that shot from beyond halfcourt. It just felt like it had no chance.

But so is the story of the season for Dallas. Good shots are plentiful — key makes are few and far between.

“They are open shots,” Luka Doncic said of the Mavericks shooting struggles. “We had great looks… I just don’t know.”

Hardaway finished the game with 11 points on 14 shots.

Doncic does what he can 

As for Doncic himself, he scored 28 points (9/21 from the field). He also dished out nine assists and grabbed six rebounds. For stretches, he looked like the Doncic of last season. He got to his spots, finishing over and around defenders.

But in the fourth quarter — while Kevin Durant hit his stride — Doncic faded into the background. Whether it was Brooklyn’s defense or Doncic missing shots, he admits he has to be better, he said.

That starts with a commitment to defense and understanding he has to carry the load on offense. To be a good team, Dallas needs him to do both. And recently, he hasn’t been able to provide that at a high level.

Defensive spotlight

It wasn’t all bad for Dallas. The defense played fairly well, limiting Durant to eight points in the first half.

The effort, something that was lacking in the previous two games, was there. And Dallas’ energy on that end of the floor was viable. It’s just a tall task to stop Durant and James Harden for four-straight quarters. Eventually, something had to give. And when the offense couldn’t score, that something was the defense on Durant.

The big picture

Dallas hasn’t been good this season. And as a jump-shooting team, there is no indication that things will change anytime soon. The hope is that the defensive effort holds up enough until the shots can start falling.

Yet, at the 23 game marker, you have to start believing that this is just who Dallas is as a team — nothing more, nothing less.

Related Dallas Mavericks reading: 

“Two reasons for the Mavericks four straight home losses.” 

“Moses Brown starts against Cleveland and proves he’s not the answer.” 

Feature image via Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports.