DALLAS – Jalen Brunson proved Monday night while he may wind up being the steal of this past June’s NBA Draft.
Starting at point guard in place of the injured Dennis Smith Jr., Brunson poured in a career-high 17 points and distributed four assists as the Dallas Mavericks made the Orlando Magic disappear, winning 101-76, before a sellout crowd of 19,334 at American Airlines Center.
It’s the 12th win in their last 16 games for the Mavs, who never trailed in this game and increased their record to 14-11. It also was the 10 straight home victory for the Mavs.
The last time the Mavs manufactured a double-digit home winning streak was from Dec. 29, 2007-Feb. 29, 2008 when they won 12 straight games at AAC.
For some odd reason, Brunson wasn’t drafted until the second round – No. 33 overall – of this past summer’s NBA Draft, despite being the consensus National College Player of the Year after leading Villanova to their second national title in three seasons. But he’s been steady as rock for the Mavs, as evident by his 7-of-9 shooting and the solid floor game he produced against the Magic.
“He plays a very steady game, he played a very mature game for a guy that’s a first-year player in the NBA,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I really like how he fits with that group. They moved the ball beautifully tonight.
“We didn’t make every shot, but the ball movement was very good – much better than it was in the Houston game (last Saturday) – and he makes the plays that are there.”
Besides the 32 minutes Brunson played, none of the Mavs’ starters played more than 28 minutes, because it wasn’t necessary and it was the ideal game to get the starters some much-needed rest.
Meanwhile, the Mavs’ other rookie – Luka Doncic – was hopping around and smiling on the court like a kid in the first half after he fed DeAndre Jordan for an and-1 basket. That came after Doncic and Jordan failed on two previous lob-dunk attempts.
Doncic only scored seven points on 2-of-11 shooting, but he also grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds and collected a career-high nine assists.
“He’s moving the ball better each game, which is really important,” Carlisle said of Doncic. “We know he can make spectacular plays.
“The key is to be able to do that while involving all your teammates so that guys are constantly involved in the action. I thought tonight was his best game doing that.”
The Mavs led 24-19 after the first quarter, 52-40 at intermission and 75-53 after the third quarter. The lead expanded to as high as 28 points (92-64) following a three-point play by Dwight Powell with 6:51 remaining in the third quarter.
“We came out and executed the game plan to perfection,” guard Devin Harris said. “The guys were tuned into what we were supposed to be doing defensively.
“Offensively, we kind of had some trouble with it in the first half in regards to ball movement. I think we did a better job with it in the second half, moving the ball and getting opened shots.”
The Mavs held Orlando to just 33 points in the second half, including only 13 in the third quarter. Overall, the Mavs accumulated 28 assists, turned the ball over just 13 times and limited the Magic to 36 percent shooting from the field.
“I think we had a great study on them,” Harris said. “Their (power forwards) and (centers) like to space the floor a lot, so we knew that they were going to try to draw and kick it to a (center) who was spacing the floor.
“So we did a great job of late switching and kicking out to the (center) to take away the three. I think that caught them off-guard a bit.”
Harrison Barnes led the Mavs with 19 points and five rebounds, Powell finished with 16 points in 21 minutes, and Wesley Matthews added 10 points. But the steadiness in which Brunson controlled the flow of the offense is what helped the Mavs to this 25-point victory.
“He’s a very stable guy, he’s a worker, he loves to play, he understands the game, he’s a student of the game, he’s a great teammate,” Carlisle said of Brunson. “He’s a guy who is a man of few words, and when he speaks up people listens because they respect how he conducts himself on a day-to-day basis.
“He’s earned everything that he’s gotten here, he’s earned every minute that he’s gotten from the very beginning of the year.”