It’s playing with fire being down big early in games.

And the Dallas Mavericks were finally burned against the Denver Nuggets to the tune of 106-75 Friday night. On the second night of a back-to-back, the comeback Mavericks could go no more after a devastating third-quarter run by Denver to seal the game before Luka Dončić could get going.

“It starts with me,” Dončić said. “I got to be way better.”

Dončić finished with a pedestrian 16 points on 18 shots, as his legs looked heavy in his second game in as many days. Outside of Dončić, only one other Maverick – Trey Burke – reached double-figures with 11 points.

As a team, Dallas shot a putrid 29 percent from the floor and 21 percent from three. The offense looked slow, clogged, and dreadful. And Dallas’ offense paled in comparison to Denver’s, which suffered from a relatively slow night for Nikola Jokic and company.

“We had great looks, but they [Denver] were the better team tonight,” Jason Kidd said after the game. “The slow starts are an issue, and we are hoping at one point it turns. Tonight we just didn’t execute for the whole 48 minutes.”

Dallas’ hideous early deficits. 

It’s losses like Friday night that highlight how dreadful Dallas (3-2) has played under Kidd this season. In three of the first five games, Dallas has trailed by 20 points or more.

“I still don’t think we’ve played a good game,” Dončić said. “We won three games, but we haven’t played a good game.”

Kidd attributes the slow starts to a lack of energy. And he says it’s something the Mavericks hope to break out of soon. But the loss to Denver offers no promise that Dallas will start games with a sense of urgency and expediency.

It may be considered an overreaction, but Dallas’ early deficits should be concerning. At some point, Kidd has to see what isn’t working. There can’t be five-straight games where starters simply “aren’t making shots,” and the coaching staff attributes it to random chance. How many times can everyone listen to players and coaches say things have to be better without them resembling any semblance of improvement?

Unless something drastic changes, we may be looking at what the Mavericks are this season – not very good.

Here is the reality of the situation: Dallas lost badly to two playoff teams, Dallas barely beat three lottery teams, Dallas is consistently starting slow, Dallas’ offense consistently shoots poorly, and Kristaps Porzingis is already missing games.

Overreaction or not, those listed failures are the current state of this team. And all parties are to blame, starting from Kidd down.

“This is one you flush, but before you flush, you have to take away what you can control,” Kidd said of the game Friday. “We have to turn the page and get ready for Sacramento on Sunday.”

Turning the page or not, Dallas can no longer run from the holes on this roster and the lack of competitiveness when Dončić isn’t superhuman.

Related Dallas Mavericks reading: 

“No Porzingis, slight problems: Dallas beats San Antonio in third-straight win.” 

Feature image via  Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports.