DALLAS – After scoring 18 points against the Houston Rockets on Sunday night, that marked the first time in his career that Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson has scored 10 or more points in four consecutive games.
Brunson attributes the success to his confidence and work ethic, and to the overwhelming attention that point guard Luka Doncic is attracting.
“I think Luka demands double-teams, so he’s an unselfish player and I just stay ready to make a play,” Brunson said following Monday’s practice at the Lympo practice facilities. “He makes life easy.
“Like I said, he demands double-teams, he demands all eyes on him. I just keep playing off of him and I just find a way to get in his vision and make plays.”
On Mar. 4 Brunson scored 10 points against the Brooklyn Nets and followed that up last Wednesday with 11 points against the Washington Wizards. Then came an 18-point, season-high nine assists performance last Friday against Orlando before the rookie from Villanova added seven rebounds and four assists to his 18-point showing against the Rockets.
Coach Rick Carlisle explained that Brunson has been “very aggressive” when he puts him in a game and that style has contributed mightily to his success.
“He’s playing real solid on both sides of the ball,” Carlisle said. “His paint attacks and playmaking abilities are a big part of us being able to pass successful on offense.
“And defensively he’s learned an awful lot about this league, and he’s been matching up on not only some top point guards, but some of the all-time great point guards. Guys like Chris Paul last night. He’s done well and continues to study the game and work.”
While Brunson’s game and playing time has skyrocketed since the Mavs included guard Dennis Smith Jr. in a trade to the New York Knicks on Jan. 31, losing games hasn’t been something Brunson is accustomed to. Particularly since he won two NCAA titles in the last three seasons.
So how is he adapting to something that’s foreign to him?
“It’s tough, but I guess it’s easy to be motivated when you’re losing a lot,” Brunson said. “So we’re going to just keep getting better and keep finding ways to improve as a team.
“I know everyone has that same drive and determination. We just have to put it all together.”
The Mavs came close to putting it all together during Sunday’s 94-93 loss to the Rockets. They even held James Harden – he entered the game averaging an NBA-best 36.6 points per game – to just 20 points on 7-of-25 shooting.
That includes the Mavs holding Harden scoreless on 0-of-8 shooting in the fourth quarter.
The Mavs hope to keep up that same defensive intensity on Tuesday at 7 p.m. when they host the San Antonio Spurs at American Airlines Center.
“We’ve got to have the same mentality,” Brunson said. “I think last night no matter what was going on — even when they made tough shots — we stuck together and we didn’t overreact to plays they were making.
“We just kept fighting. We just got to keep fighting like that. That was one of our best games we’ve played defensively, especially against a team like that who’s hot. We just got to build off of that.”
And individually, Brunson hopes to build off the double-digit scoring success he’s enjoyed over the last four games.