ATLANTA – Just because the Dallas Mavericks were surprisingly blown out in their season opener Thursday night at State Farm Arena, Luka Doncic acknowledged it’s way too early to start pushing any panic buttons.
Doncic, however, did take note of the obvious, after the 113-87 loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
“I think we played terrible,” the Mavs’ superstar point guard said. “It was our first game, we’ve got a new coach, a lot of new coaching staff, two new players.
“We’ll be fine, but today was a terrible day. We couldn’t make nothing. We’ve got 81 to go, so nothing to worry about.”
What worried the Mavs the most against the Hawks was their inability to locate the basket, and their lack of success against Atlanta’s rock solid pick-n-roll offense. When told that the Mavs only shot 33.3 percent from the field and missed 30 of their 43 attempts from 3-point territory, forward Kristaps Porzingis said:
“That’s bad. That’s very bad. But just stick to our routine, stick to our work, trust our work and go out there and play again with the same confidence.
The next game for the Mavs is Saturday in Toronto before they head back to Dallas to play their home opener on Tuesday against the Houston Rockets.
New coach Jason Kidd anticipated a tough game against the Hawks, yet he was optimistic that his era would get off to a much more pleasant start. But the Hawks seized control of the game when they stretched their 51-44 halftime lead to 86-64 entering the fourth quarter with a breakout performance in the decisive third quarter when they outscored the Mavs, 35-20.
The final outcome had Kidd singing the praises of the Hawks, who lost to the eventual NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks in six games in last season’s Eastern Conference Finals.
“They didn’t just make it to the Eastern Conference Finals on accident,” Kidd said. “(Hawks coach) Nate (McMillian is) a great coach, and they have a really good team.
“They were physical tonight on both ends, and so we knew we had our hands full. Opening night, everybody’s trying to feel their way through it, and they started making shots. And again, we had some shots that went in and out and that was our night.”
The Hawks kept a big body all night on Doncic, who finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists, but was only 6-of-17 from the field.
“They switched (De’Andre) Hunter and (John) Collins (on Doncic), so the whole night he was looking at a big,” Kidd said. “He never had smalls on him.
“But we’ll go back and look and see what they did so we can learn from it and get better for the next game.”
The Hawks led by as much as 30 points – 107-77 – with 3:24 remaining following a 3-pointer by Jalen Johnson. It was one of those burn the film and bury the ashes kind of games for the Mavs, who are now 22-20 all-time in season openers.
“Not to worry, but we have to pick it up pretty fast.”
Brunson said a new coach and a new offensive scheme had absolutely nothing to do with how this game unfolded.
“I think it was just us – first-game jitters,” he said. “It still happens at this level. First game, everyone’s excited. Maybe too excited.
“We’ll bounce back. We’ve bounced back before. But like I said, we’re not too worried.”
Cam Reddish paced the Hawks with 20 points off the bench, Trae Young finished with 19 points and 14 assists, Collins had 16 points, nine rebounds and two blocks, Clint Capela picked up 12 points, 13 boards and a pair of blocks, and Hunter added 11 points and two blocks.
With Tim Hardaway Jr. (14 points) scoring early and often, the Mavs jumped out to a 10-2 lead after their newly-minted defense forced three turnovers. Hardaway and Porzingis each nailed a 3-pointer, and Doncic and Hardaway scored conventional baskets that helped stake the Mavs to that early eight-point cushion.
But the Hawks went on a brisk 12-0 run and eventually led, 43-31, with 3:59 left in the second quarter following a trey by Young and a dunk from Capela.
“We got great looks in that first half,” Kidd said. “Defensively, we thought we did a lot of good things. We had a lot of looks that just didn’t go down for us.
“Any time in this league when you don’t make shots it tends to pull away from your defense. We still got a lot of things to work on, but I thought there were some good positive things out there.”
“I think we were just out of rhythm on our offense tonight and that led maybe to some forced shots,” Porzingis said. “Sometimes we turned down a pretty good look early in the offense, and drove and kicked, and then we got to a tougher shot at the end.
“I think no need to over-react. We know what we’re capable of on the offensive end. We just have to organize it a little bit and bounce back and just catch that rhythm offensively. Once we do that we’ll be OK.”