It was a throwback night on Saturday, with old-style uniforms and nostalgic touches all around American Airlines Center.
It took awhile, but in the end the Mavericks remembered it was a tribute to the high-flying ’80s, not the forgettable ’90s.
The modern-day Mavericks did their part, battling back from a fourth-quarter deficit to start their five-game homestand with a 117-112 victory over the stubborn Portland Trail Blazers.
Luka Dončić bounced back from a pair of subpar (for him) games with the 49th triple-double of his career, piling up 42 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. And he got some major help down the stretch from Spencer Dinwiddie, who had a pair of three-pointers, and Dorian Finney-Smith, who hit one with 54.1 seconds left to put the Mavericks up by seven points as they improved to 7-5 on the season.
The evening pushed Luka into some more exclusive company. He’s the sixth player to have four or more triple-doubles that included a 40-plus point night.
The list: Oscar Robertson 22, James Harden 16, Russell Westbrook 13, Wilt Chamberlain 7, LeBron James 6 and Luka, with four.
It was a great way to start a long stay at home and stop the brief two-game losing streak that had nagged at them after their quick trip Eastward on Wednesday and Thursday.
“Two tough losses, we come home to a great crowd, great environment,” Hardaway said. “I’m just happy that we got the victory and happy that my guys trusted me out there.”
Hardaway had two of the passes that set up the late three-pointers and Luka had the other one. It was a classic showing of sharing the ball.
“They trapped Luka and he does a phenomenal job – he makes the right read, the right pass,” said Dinwiddie. “He found me and I was able to hit a couple shots.”
Dinwiddie had 20 points and hit 6-of-8 from three-point range. And the Mavericks were more efficient at crunch time than they were for most of the second half, something that hasn’t always been the case in close games so far this season.
Not that it was easy. They squandered a 16-point second-quarter lead and were down 78-71 with under 5 minutes left in the third quarter.
They would spend much of the rest of the night trying to muster enough momentum to run down the Blazers.
They still were down 98-92 midway through the fourth but Hardaway’s three-point play began a 9-0 blitz that regained the lead for the Mavericks with 4:46 left.
That’s when the three-pointers began to drop and the Mavericks got enough stops to overrun the Blazers, who finished a six-game trip with a respectable 4-2 record.
Interestingly, the perimeter shots weren’t falling for much of the game for the Mavericks, but Luka kept the faith with his teammates.
“That’s the trust we have in each other,” he said. “I think it was Reggie (Bullock) that had an open shot in the final minute, but he saw Doe-Doe was more open. So we got a great shot to a better shot. That’s the trust we got to have every game.
“I always tell them keep shooting. If you’re open, you got to shoot it. I’ll keep on trusting them. That’s really easy for me.”
And, of course, for the longest time, Dončić put the Mavericks on his back. He said it was a totally different feeling than when he appeared exhausted at times during the losing streak.
“(I felt) way better,” he said. “I wasn’t tired at all. I had a great recovery day. I have to do more of that – all the little stuff.”
The prime storyline going into the evening was whether or not Dončić would escape from the relative funk he was in on the trip to Orlando and Washington. He shot just 34 percent in those two games and scored just 46 points combined in the back-to-back contests.
There was talk about getting the superstar point guard some rest, and that probably will happen at some point on this homestand.
But it wasn’t Saturday night, when he looked as fresh as ever.
He got off to his typically fast start – 22 points by halftime – and the Mavericks also welcomed back Christian Wood, who missed both games on the trip with a left knee issue.
Wood responded with 19 points before fouling out late.
When he found himself wide-open time and again on the pick and roll for easy buckets, it was clear how much the Mavericks missed him on the trip. Before the game, Jason Kidd had emphasized that Luka needs help.
So Wood and Hardaway, who had 16 points and five assists, stepped up in the first half as the Mavericks built a 49-33 lead.
The Mavericks couldn’t protect that lead. They watched it dwindle and when Luka got called for a technical foul with 1:26 left, the Blazers executed a five-point possession and went ahead 57-55.
It continued a trend of the Mavericks not being able to protect big leads – and set up a drama-filled second half.
Share and comment