The turnovers were bad against Utah, but these other Mavericks problems got our attention as well

SALT LAKE CITY — Last season, the Mavericks were 24-58 and yet they were the best team in the NBA at holding onto the basketball.

They averaged a league-low 12.3 turnovers.

So in the last four games, they’ve averaged 22.5 turnovers per game, including 25 of them in Wednesday’s 117-102 loss to Utah. For the season, they are at 17.1 turnovers per game, which puts them in the bottom five of the league.

“With that many turnovers, it’s difficult to win a game,” Luka Doncic said. “It was a tough back-to-back, but we didn’t have our mentality right and the turnovers killed us. We got to stick together and get our mentality right.”

Coach Rick Carlisle had no choice but to change the offense this offseason. The kind of players they brought in required it. They have to play faster and they have to move the ball more than they did in last year’s dribble-penetration offense.

It’s proven to be a tough sell as players try to find the right spots on the floor and the right plays to make at the right time.

Lots of thinking is going on. And that’s the problem. It’s not second nature yet.

“It’s a big problem,” Carlisle said. “And we got to get it solved. Tonight, they amped up their defense, which we expected. We had seven (turnovers) in the first quarter which led to a lot of points. You give up 31 points on 25 turnovers on the road in the Western Conference, you’re going to have a rough night.”

It also doesn’t help when you give up a slew of dunks to Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell. The defense wasn’t good. Again.

In addition to the turnovers and defensive shortcomings, there were other things that caught our eye, some that need to be addressed, and some that just made us go hmmm.

Such as:

1) Sometimes, rebounds don’t matter. When you allow the opponent to shoot more than 48 percent, and you shoot less than 40 percent — you better get rebounds. And the Mavericks did. But their 49-35 advantage was a mirage. The turnovers, bad defense and crummy shooting negated everything.

2) Wait a minute. Did we see that right? Jalen Brunson was a plus-nine points in his 15 minutes on the floor? That’s what happens when you come in and just try to play hard and make something happen with energy. He had a bucket, then stole an inbounds pass and scored quickly again, although J.J. Barea gave him grief after the game for padding his stats by letting his first shot get blocked so he could get an extra rebound. No matter. Brunson’s play is intriguing, if nothing else.

“Brunson was a very positive factor in the game,” Carlisle said. “A good job at both ends. He’s plus-nine in 15 minutes. That tells you he was ready to play. We need those kind of performances from top to bottom.”

3) Dennis Smith Jr. played only 24 minutes. He had 10 points, four rebounds, an assist and four turnovers. Shorter stretches on the court are never easy for young players to accept. Production is what it is all about, however.

4) Perseverance again seemed to be lacking. This team hasn’t figured out yet how to duck when somebody swings hard at them. Worse, they haven’t learned to shake it off when they get hit. And pulling in the same direction also seems to be a concern.

“In the West, it’s going to test you every night,” Carlisle said. “It’s going to test your togetherness, it’s going to test your collective will. And we just got to stick together and be up to it.”