Here’s our five takeaways from the Mavericks’ 127-123 victory over New Orleans Wednesday night at American Airlines Center.
Taking care of business: It wasn’t the prettiest win of the season. But the Mavericks were convinced that this was a statement victory in many ways because of the way the Pelicans played. “You could tell how bad they needed that game and they wanted to win that game,” said Seth Curry. “They’re a playoff caliber team offensively. They can beat you a lot of different ways offensively. And it got tougher when Doe-Doe went out because we had nobody for Brandon Ingram. We had to figure it out on the fly and that’s what you got to do in the playoffs.” The Mavericks have had trouble executing in tight situations, but made plays in overtime to dig out the win against a team that is fighting to get back into the playoff picture.
Speaking of Doe-Doe: Dorian Finney-Smith went down with a hip flexor in the first half and did not return. After the game, coach Rick Carlisle said that it was unclear the extent of the injury and whether it might cost Finney-Smith some time. There’s no overstating the importance the fourth-year forward has on this team. He’s the only Maverick to play all 63 games and has started 60 of them. He’s their best defensive player and averages 9.2 points and 5.5 rebounds while shooting 37.1 percent from 3-point range. And he’s one of the most respected guys in the locker room for many reasons on the court and off. With Dwight Powell and Jalen Brunson already on the shelf (although Brunson could return later this month) the Mavericks can’t afford to lose another one of their glue guys.
Size matters: Zion Williamson’s first appearance in Dallas came with all the force that he’s advertised to have. However, while he had 21 points and six rebounds, Williamson also had five of his nine missed shots blocked – all by Maxi Kleber. Williamson is 285 pounds. But he also is only 6-7 and one of the concerns coming into the NBA was whether his lack of length would negate some of his raw power and athleticism. On this night, it did. The Mavericks used the 6-10 Kleber and the 7-3 Kristaps Porzingis to converge on Williamson anytime he got the ball in the paint. It worked well enough to keep Williamson from getting into a serious offensive groove.
Doncic-Porzingis rolling: Any concerns from weeks past about Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis being able to parlay their skills together seem to have dissipated. The duo combined for 64 points against the Pelicans, in addition t 29 rebounds and 13 assists. Doncic had his 14th triple double of the season and Porzingis had his fourth 30-10 game of the season with 34 points and 12 boards. Over their last three games they’ve played together, they have combined for 165 points (55 per game) and 74 rebounds (24.7). Enough said.
Breaking down the overtime: The Mavericks haven’t had great success in crunch-time situations this season, but they were solid against the Pelicans, particularly in overtime. They used an economy of 3-pointers (taking only three) in the extra frame. Instead, they relied on motion and ball movement and that’s where Luka Doncic can flourish. He had seven points, making both his shots (including the only 3-pointer of OT) and both his free throws. He had four rebounds and an assist. This was a perfect example that the Mavericks are not allergic to close games. And by the way, they won at home, which pushed their American Airlines Center record to 17-14.