SAN ANTONIO – Lots of impressive numbers popped out during the the Mavericks’ bounce-back win Friday night.
Seeing those 30 assists while suffering just five turnovers, and only one in the first half, was a terrific sign.
And their stifling defense in the third quarter, when they blew open the game by holding San Antonio to 20 points, was a thing of beauty.
But no numbers could trump the electrifying display by Luka Dončić.
If anybody was concerned about his shooting – or any other aspect of his game early in the season – he put those fears to rest Friday with his first triple-double of the season as the Mavericks rolled to a 123-109 victory over the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center.
Well before the third quarter was done, Dončić had the 37th triple-double of his career. He finished with 32 points, 15 assists and 12 rebounds.
This clearly was no lightweight triple-double.
Many of those assists went to Kristaps Porzingis, who had a season-best 32 points to match Dončić in that department. Porzingis also banked in a buzzer-beater at the end of the first half from just inside the midcourt line.
It was a wonderful way to erase the aftertaste of the Mavericks’ 10-point loss at Chicago on Wednesday. The bounce-back win, which they led by 27 at one point, ensured that they still have not lost two games in a row this season.
It also ended a stretch of three games in 16 days against the Spurs. The Mavericks got out of that with a 3-0 record, which is a major part of their 8-4 overall record.
And seeing Dončić hit 11-of-23 shots and 6-of-13 3-pointers was a welcomed sight after his somewhat slow start this season when it comes to shooting the ball. He came into Friday’s game hitting just 28.6 percent from 3-point land.
“It’s a long season,” coach Jason Kidd said. “If we’re going to be judged on one game in the first 10, that’s not fair. But Luka’s a true pro. He came in and worked last night, worked on his shooting, basically the whole team did when we landed (from Chicago).
“It just shows that these guys care, they understand they’re not making shots, they continue to keep working when they can rest, so that’s a positive and shows how much they care about their job. Tonight everybody felt like they got good looks and knocked them down.”
The looks were good in part because they built their offense from the inside out and early play on the low post by Dončić and Porzingis got the Mavericks off to a nice start.
“We started off by getting those guys in the post right off the bat, playing inside, which I think set the tone,” Kidd said. “We know we can shoot threes, but those guys (were great) attacking the rim.
“We had (Porzingis) out there as the only big and he was aggressive from the first play.”
Indeed, Porzingis was surrounded by shooters much of the night, although he did spend some time on the court with fellow big man Dwight Powell.
“We took advantage of the mismatches, played big down there,” Porzingis said. “And we have that confidence in each other that we want to share the ball and make the other team pay for the mismatches.”
As Dončić said: “We shared the ball, had a lot of assists and we didn’t turn it over, that was great. Every time when small guards guard us, we got to take advantage of that. I heard KP talk about it, and I want to say the same thing as him.”
The five turnovers easily was the lowest total of the season.
While Dončić and Porzingis were dominant, they had help. Dorian Finney-Smith had his best game of the season with 17 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals. It was Finney-Smith’s first game of his career with at least 15 points, five rebounds and three steals.
The Mavericks improved to 5-0 this season against their competitors in the Southwest Division. But the division is looking a little shoddy these days. Houston and New Orleans each have one win and double-digit losses. Memphis (6-6) is the only team other than the Mavericks at or better than .500. The Spurs fell to 4-8 with Friday’s loss.
But that’s not the Mavericks’ concern. What was clear in the first half Friday was that the Mavericks were determined to make everybody’s highlight-reel shows.
Dončić tossed in a 28-foot 3-pointer with the shot clock running down. Then he drilled one from 33 feet near the end of the first half.
Not to be outdone, Porzingis took a pass from Dončić in the last couple of seconds of the half and let it fly a step inside the midcourt line. He banked it in as the buzzer sounded to give the Mavericks a 68-57 lead at the end of a first half that was full of twists and turns.
The official scorer called it a 33-foot shot. But closer to 40 would probably be more accurate. From the rim to midcourt is 43 feet.
When asked if he called “glass” on the heave, Porzingis didn’t flinch.
“Of course,” he said.