Bubble ball has been very, very good to Dallas Mavericks forward Kristaps Porzingis.
In the six games he’s played inside the NBA bubble in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., the past 12 days, Porzingis has scored 30 or more points in four of those games. That includes the 36 points he had in Tuesday’s 134-131 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.
By contrast, Porzingis poured in 30 or more points just six times in the 51 games he played in before the NBA season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. So what changed – other than playing all games in just one city with no fans – in helping accelerate his game to extraordinary heights?
“I think just being the trail guy in our offense and playing with Luka (Doncic) is so easy, and me also adjusting my game in a way,” Porzingis said. “I’m popping, I’m rolling, I’m mixing those two things and I think it’s hard for the other team to make the read, first of all.
“Also, I’m being more aggressive when I do roll to the basket, and then asking for the ball inside and taking advantage if I do have a mismatch. I think that’s when I’m dangerous and that’s the best way to use me, and I’m glad that we’re finding ways for me how to be effective out there on the floor. And as I said, just playing with these guys with an open floor, I think, it’s great for all of us.”
Porzingis got the Mavs off to a blazing start when his alley-oop dunk off a feed from Trey Burke combined with his pair of 3-pointers gave him 16 points and pushed Dallas ahead, 31-23, late in the first quarter. However, Porzingis unfortunately fouled out on an offensive foul when he was whistled for charging into Hassan Whiteside with 1:18 remaining and the score deadlocked at 130.
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle challenged the call, and after a review, it stood and the Mavs dropped to 43-31 on the year entering Thursday’s regular-season finale against Phoenix.
“They looked at the replay and I probably did have my hand in the jersey a little bit, and that’s what they saw first,” Porzingis said. “I can’t argue with something that they looked at the replay.
“But obviously what I felt at that moment was him holding my hand and pulling me back.”
Nevertheless, the loss marred a splendid night from Porzingis, who was 12-of-17 from the field and 7-of-9 from beyond the 3-point arc. That’s the most three-pointers he’s made in a game in his career, and the 39 points he scored against the Houston Rockets in the first game in the bubble were just one shy of his career-high of 40 points that he tallied against the Indiana Pacers on Nov. 5, 2017 when he was with the New York Knicks.
In addition, Porzingis, who contributed six rebounds and two blocks against Portland, described what he did against the Blazers as his most complete offensive game as a Maverick.
“I shot the ball well,” he said. “I’m always critical of the stuff that I do, and I believe I could have done things better, also.
“But yeah, that’s a pretty complete game for me and I’m glad that I’m getting into more rhythm the more time I spend with these guys and this system. I want to keep it going individually and as a team.”
Porzingis also scored 30 points against the Phoenix Suns on Aug. 2, and 30 points against the Los Angeles Clippers last Thursday. And in his other two games in the bubble, he tossed in 22 points against Sacramento on Aug. 4 and 26 points against Milwaukee last Saturday.
That means Porzingis has scored 20 or more points in six consecutive games. The only other time he’s accomplished that feat in his career was from Nov. 3-15, 2017 when he was with the Knicks.
“KP was great,” Carlisle said. “He had a phenomenal game and he was doing it in all different ways. Cuts, rolls, pops, drives. He had a couple of post-ups that were nice.”
In essence, Porzingis has been “nice” ever since bubble ball started. And that bodes well for the Mavs as they open postseason play early next week.
Carlisle recalls Euro-Doncic: Before the Mavs made the draft-day trade to acquire Luka Doncic in 2018, coach Rick Carlisle recalled watching film of the talented point guard.
Doncic was the Most Valuable Player of the EuroLegaue and the MVP of the EuroLeague Final Four while helping Real Madrid capture the 2018 championship. His exceptional talents and his resume obviously speak for themselves.
“He was dominant, I do remember that,” Carlisle said. “He certainly was the best player over there. He got MVP in all the league stuff, all the playoff stuff. I think they won multiple championships that year.”
Bubble games are different: Carlisle said the bubble games offer a completely different environment for the 22 teams who qualified for the seeding games in Orlando.
“But by and large the games have been highly competitive,” he said. “Three of our (seven) games have been overtime games, they’ve all been close. The big difference I think for all of us is that the environment is different without fans.
“I like what they’ve done with the digital boards (is good), and the noise that’s geared more toward the home team, which it should be. And when you watch it on TV, I think it gives the right effect. So they’ve done everything that they can possibly do to enhance this. I like it. We’re playing, we’re competing, we’re working at what we love and those things are very, very important.”
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