Just four games into the preseason, it’s safe to say that Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis are on the same page.
The dynamic duo combined for 36 points and 23 rebounds Monday night at American Airlines Center to lead the Dallas Mavericks to a 107-70 triumph over the Oklahoma City Thunder. It was the first preseason victory for the Mavs after three losses.
The Mavs will close preseason action Thursday in Vancouver, Canada, when they face the Los Angeles Clippers before opening regular-season play at home on Oct. 23 against the Washington Wizards.
Doncic led the Mavs with 19 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, and Porzingis collected 17 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. The two budding superstars were in sync all night as they gave the crowd of 15,305 just a taste of what to expect from them this season..
“When those two are involved in situations, whether they’re pick-and-rolls, pick-and-pops, post-up reads, things like that, they cause a problem,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “Luka’s got such a great feel for the game and the ability to deliver the ball at any moment at exactly the right time.
“And KP, with his length and ability to stroke the ball, is breathtaking.”
Just to showcase their familiarity with each other, Doncic fed Porzingis for an alley-oop dunk, and the latter followed that up with a vicious conventional dunk and an 80-52 cushion for the Mavs with 2:38 remaining in the third quarter.
“Do I feel like we’re on the same page – sure,” Porzingis said. “We want to win together and we want to do things right and we want to build a chemistry, and we know it’s going to take a little bit of time.”
Doncic and Porzingis – along with Maxi Kleber – dominated the first-half scoring for the Mavs, who led at the midway point, 57-38. At that juncture, Doncic had 13 points, four rebounds and five assists, Kleber had 12 points, and Porzingis had 10 points and nine rebounds and was 4-of-13 from the field.
“I always tell you the same thing,” Doncic said of Porzingis. “He’s a great player and a great person, so we’re going to get along.”
From the Mavs’ perspective, having Doncic and Porzingis on the floor – and clicking – opens on a wave of things for the other players. Case in point, Kleber jammed home a dunk via a feed from Doncic and followed that up with a 3-point basket that put Dallas up 55-36 late in the second quarter.
“Teams have to figure out what to do with those two because as soon as both of them are involved in the pick-and-roll, it’s just going to be tough (for opponents) because it has to be switched probably,” said Kleber, who scored 14 points. “Both of them are individually so good that they can create their own shot and just shoot over anybody.
“It’s really fun to watch because of those two. KP has so many options like rolling to the basket or he can pop out and shoot it, and Luka does what Luka does, so it’s just fun for us to watch.”
It’s probably fun for Carlisle to watch, too.
“They go hand-in-hand in a lot of ways,” Carlisle said. “Those guys bond on a lot of levels. They both came up through systems where they spent time in Spain, and they are both fluent in Spanish and often times they talk to each other in Spanish.
“Their experiences from a young age mirror each other at least on some level. No one had any doubt that they’d be guys that became good friends and ultimately would be close off the court. I feel those kinds of things ultimately are going to lead to them bonding and becoming more familiar with each other on the court as well.”
Earlier, a short bank shot by veteran guard J. J. Barea put the Mavs ahead, 29-17, late in the first quarter. It’s just the second game for Barea since undergoing ruptured Achilles tendon surgery on Jan. 14.
“I think he’s ahead of where most people thought he’d be,” Carlisle said. “I’m not shocked, because he’s a guy that does remarkable things. That’s been his calling card.
“He’s been doing extremely well — no setbacks. This is big to build on the 12 or 13 minutes of (last Friday’s game against Milwaukee) and keep trying to work on rhythm and getting your NBA game legs.”
The Mavs played without injured players Dwight Powell (left hamstring strain), Jalen Brunson (sore left hamstring) and Dorian Finney-Smith (left hip flexor strain). And Seth Curry suffered a right knee contusion in the first half and did not return to the game.
However, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Justin Jackson tallied 13 and 12 points respectively. Meanwhile, Delon Wright finished with nine points, seven rebounds and three assists in 27 minutes.
“I had a good practice yesterday and got my legs back under me,” Wright said, “and tried to just be more aggressive today.”
That aggression was certainly across the board for the Mavs who outrebounded the Thunder, 66-39, while also holding OKC to just 32.6 percent shooting from the field, including only 5-of-34 from 3-point range.
“That was a better performance, certainly, than the first three (games),” Carlisle said. “But we’ve got a long way to go.
“Nine more days (until the regular season opener). A lot to get done in terms of disposition, presence, those kinds of things, but some positive steps.”