DALLAS — At some point, it starts to feel like the same script or a broken record.

The Dallas Mavericks (25-24) squandered a 41-point effort by Luka Doncic in a 127-126 loss to the Washington Wizards (21-26), sans former Maverick Kristaps Porzingis. Again, it wasn’t the offense to blame for the loss. It was the defense and the Mavericks’ lack of ability to get timely stops that left the team befuddled during the postgame press conference.

After the game, Luka Doncic was asked what was wrong with Dallas’ defense. His answer was simple.

“Everything,” Doncic said while getting up from the press table and walking off.

Spencer Dinwiddie, often candid in moments of tenuousness, agreed.

“We have to be better,” Dinwiddie said. “We have to get stops. And we did that last year. We were top five, top 10 defense. That’s the biggest difference. We still put points on the board, we still got LD doing his thing, and we still got people making shots, but until we guard until we get back to that type of identity, that’s a team thing.”

“Everything,” he added when probed about the team’s biggest defensive struggle. “You name it: point of attack, getting to the ball, positioning… It’s all these different pieces and scenarios. Got to have an effort on that end. We just break down too much.”

Both Doncic and Dinwiddie’s admittance of what has plagued the Mavericks all season comes while the team is slumping in on-court form and subsequently in the Western Conference standings.

In the last 11 games, the Mavericks are 3-8. Additionally, during that same stretch, Dallas allowed 120 points per game.

The Mavericks are a bad defensive team and there are few signs it will get better. Maxi Kleber, Dallas’ defensive anchor, is hopeful to return this season. But his return won’t make Dallas’ defense transcendent. Odds are, he will make them marginally better, but the fact remains: Dallas’ defense breaks down more frequently than it did last season.

Christian Wood is still nursing a left thumb fracture and there has been little word regarding his return. And with Wood’s return, Dallas isn’t gaining a defender. Both Dorian Finney-Smith and Josh Green returned to action. Their presence hasn’t helped Dallas improve as a defensive team.

Reality has appeared to strike the Mavericks: Last season’s run to the Western Conference Finals wasn’t because Dallas boasted a great roster — it was a series of favorable matchups, while this season’s struggles are due to a dearth of talent available to help Doncic. And unless the front office makes a roster move before the February trade deadline, help isn’t on the way.

Internal progress the likes of last season most likely won’t happen. The Mavericks are who they are — a great one-man show paired with a bad defense and streaky playmakers.

For Dallas to improve, it has to look externally earnestly for the first time since the Porzingis trade. And if the Mavericks don’t do so, this season will go down as a waste of one of Doncic’s great offensive years.

Related Dallas Mavericks reading

“The critical lesson the Dallas Mavericks need to internalize to be great.” 

“The glaring weakness in the Dallas Mavericks.” 

Feature image via Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports