Here’s our takeaways from Friday’s 120-112 victory over Portland.
It’s good to be home – for a change: The Mavericks’ home woes have become evident to everybody, but they won for the second time in a row on the American Airlines Center floor and did so by persevering in the fourth quarter when Portland chopped the lead that reached as much as 17 points down to four. They made shots when they needed to and got key stops to stall the Blazers’ attempted rally. While the Mavericks’ 13-10 home record remains worse than all other current Western Conference playoff teams except Memphis, at least they have shown some gumption on the home floor in the last two games. “We got to build off it,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “Good starts are something that always help. We haven’t had a lot of great ones. The last (few) games, we’ve focused on some simple things, basic fundamentals of offense and defense.” Whatever they’re doing, it needs to keep working Tuesday against the Clippers at home before the Mavericks hit the road for three games. And by the way, they are 1-0 at home with Chime on their jerseys.
More than one way to do it: The Mavericks have been a good rebounding team most of the season and they do it with everybody contributing. Portland is a good rebounding team when the Blazers are at their best and they do it with center Hassan Whiteside being capable of ripping down 18 boards, as he did Friday. The Mavericks, meanwhile, outrebounded the Blazers 43-40 by having eight players get four rebounds or more. What’s been most impressive about the Mavericks during the 10 games that Kristaps Porzingis has missed is that they’ve found ways to pick up the slack of his missing 9-plus rebounds per game. They have outrebounded foes by an average of 1.5 boards per game during KP’s absence.
This just in: Luka Doncic is good. And he may be about to pull the Mavericks up the Western Conference standings. They pulled into a virtual tie with Houston for fifth place in the West with the win Friday. Doncic had an efficient 35 points to go with seven assists and eight rebounds. It was the kind of game we’ve come to expect. And the Mavericks survived against the Blazers despite letting them shoot 51.8 percent from the floor. That’s another sign of a good team: they find different ways to win when they aren’t playing every facet of the game well. It helps to have a do-everything superstar on your side.
Pick-me-up from Brunson: It had been awhile since Jalen Brunson had the sort of major impact he had against the Blazers. The second-year guard had 13 points in 19 minutes and helped steady the Mavericks during a second quarter when he led everybody in scoring with 11 of his points. That’s when the Mavericks took charge of the game, by the way. For reference, Brunson had not had a double-figure scoring game since the day after Christmas and had averaged just 3.5 points on 33.3 percent shooting in those 12 games. Admittedly, playing time had dropped somewhat to 13.5 minutes per game. Against the Blazers, he was 5-of-10 from the field and hit his only 3-point try.
Time to recharge: The Mavericks are 27-15, the first time this season they’ve been 12 games above the .500 mark. They have won four games in a row and they don’t play again until Tuesday when the Los Angeles Clippers visit. It’s time to nurse a few wounds and catch a breath. Coach Rick Carlisle said they will take Saturday as an off day. Unknown is whether they will get the whole weekend off – perhaps a nice post-Christmas gift after a crazy-busy stretch – before coming back for what you’d think would be a rigorous Monday practice. The Mavericks played 13 games in the first 23 games after Christmas and had more than one day off between games just one time. Then again, they are a mostly young team and clearly can benefit from practice time. This is when you learn to trust the coach.