ORLANDO – The last time the Mavericks were in the throes of a playoff race, a bunch of 30-something veterans were leading them with a been-there, done-that attitude.

In 2015-16, Dirk Nowitzki, `J.J. Barea, Deron Williams, Devin Harris and David Lee all had the battle scars from learning how to deal with the pressure when every win or loss could change your playoff fate.

Conversely, Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis, Dorian Finney-Smith, Jalen Brunson and Maxi Kleber – all starters or at least part-time starters – have never tasted NBA playoff basketball.

Tim Hardaway Jr. had some playoff experience with Atlanta, Seth Curry was with Portland last season for their run to the conference finals and Delon Wright was part of three Toronto teams that made the postseason. J.J. Barea and Courtney Lee have extensive playoff time on their resume, but also are on the fringe of the playing rotation, at best.

Suffice it to say that the Mavericks, even with Doncic having won a championship in Europe and Brunson owning two NCAA title rings, aren’t exactly wily vets when it comes to how to handle an NBA stretch drive.

“It’s different with a younger team as opposed to an older, veteran team,” coach Rick Carlisle said Thursday as the Mavericks departed to start the post-All-Star portion of the schedule at the Orlando Magic. “I got here in 2008. That was a veteran team, the majority of guys were in their 30s. They were all on their second or third or fourth contracts. It just was a different set of circumstances.

“This is a rebuild really from the ground back up over the last three years. The challenges are different and things need to be brought along in an organic way on the one hand. But on the other hand, you’re always teaching and always looking for things that are important to what we’re doing culturally and what we’re doing in the big picture.”

In other words, these Mavericks are learning on the fly, not only about playoff pressures, but about how to play with one another.

Remember, since mid-December, Doncic and Porzingis have played together nine times in the last 30 games. That does not foster instant chemistry.

“When you got a young team and you got guys that are playing together for the first time, and you’re presented with the situation we had the last six weeks, things do take time,” Carlisle said. “So we’ve got to be patient, I’ve got to be patient.

“We’ve got to try to nudge it along. But nothing happens overnight. (We’re) talking about an endeavor like trying to get a young team acclimated to what playoff basketball is all about.”

On the bright side, Porzingis and Carlisle both said that the final game before the break, when Doncic returned from a sprained ankle, set a good foundation for the final 27-game push to the postseason.

In that 19-point win vs. Sacramento, the pair combined for 60 points and 25 rebounds.

“It’s only a matter of time, it takes time, especially with all of the changes for myself and coming off the injury, being off for that long,” Porzingis said. “It takes time to get back that feel for the game, finding your opportunities in the offense with a player like Luka. All those things, you got to connect slowly and when it starts to click, it comes more naturally. I think we’re on the right path and with each game, I think you’re going to see improvements and it’s going to get more organic.”

Added Carlisle: “The Sacramento game was a great template for what we’re looking for from not only them, but the entire team. This 27 games is a tough stretch, but it’ll go by quickly and we got to make the most of it.”

Briefly: The Mavericks play Orlando on Friday and Atlanta on Saturday during this quick trip. Carlisle said he will play things by feel when it comes to Porzingis’ status on back-to-back games. “As I’ve stated all along the way, it’ll go on a case-by-case basis,” he said. “We’ll just go that way.” Porzingis said that he understands the situation and that “whoever is out there will fight to get every win. Always at the end of the day for me, the No. 1 thing is to win as a team. Then everybody looks good.” . . . Expect Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to make his Mavericks debut at some point on this trip. Carlisle said on Wednesday that it is more likely than not that the 6-6 forward would get his feet wet in one or both of the games . . . As he prepares to be inducted into the Orlando Magic’s hall of fame on Friday, Mavericks’ assistant coach Darrell Armstrong was fighting a significant limp on Thursday. He said his knee stiffened up on Wednesday night, but that he’ll fight through it.

Twitter: @ESefko

Share and comment

More Mavs News