Kyrie Irving showed us the blueprint of how this thing is supposed to work for the Mavericks during the second half of the 123-119 win over Sacramento on Wednesday.
Irving ripped off 25 second-half points, 19 in the fourth quarter, and the Mavericks ran down the Kings, who had a 13-point lead early in the third quarter.
Why this hasn’t happened more often doesn’t really matter. It hasn’t. And there’s nothing the Mavericks can do about that now.
But they can bottle their second-half performance against the Kings and pop the cork on it Friday against Chicago and Sunday against San Antonio.
Finish strong, hope for a loss by Oklahoma City either Thursday at Utah or Sunday against Memphis in OKC.
That’s the scenario for the Mavericks to get into the No. 10 spot and have a flicker of hope to reach the Western Conference playoffs.
Their showing Wednesday was uplifting. Irving had 31 points. Luka Dončić had 29, all in the first three quarters. And Tim Hardaway Jr. flipped in 24. But that second half by Irving was the clincher that made sure the Mavericks’ playoff hopes keep burning.
Here’s our takeaways from what Irving called afterward a “must-win game.”
HALFTIME CHAT: Jason Kidd didn’t want to divulge too much about what he said at halftime when the Mavericks were trailing 71-60. But something had to be said. So what was it? “Just looking ourselves in the mirror,” said Hardaway, who hit five of eight three-pointers. “The ball’s in your court, what do you guys want to do? We can sit here and watch film at halftime about how they’re scoring and what we need to do to stop them. We’ve been doing this for the whole season. It’s up to us now. We know what we got to do. Just got to go out there and do that. I’m just happy we all took the message.” It required better effort defensively, coach Jason Kidd said. After giving up 71 first-half points, they surrendered only 48 in the second. “Just be connected,” he said. “I thought defensively we weren’t connected, so we talked about it at halftime. It started on the defensive end.”
KYRIE THANKFUL FOR GREAT ENVIRONMENT: Irving was lights-out in the second half, and he lit up the sellout crowd, too. And he said he noticed the reaction as he was pouring in 19 fourth-quarter points. “It feels great,” he said. “This is a great environment to play in. I’ve said in the past, coming to American Airlines (Center), even as a visitor, you feel like the fans are right on top of you. When it gets loud in here, it gets really loud. I’m appreciative of the boos two weeks ago and now the cheers. It just makes basketball that much more fun. When you’re playing well and playing hard and making teams miss, fans appreciate that. But when we’re not, it’s hard basketball to watch.”
BENCH BRIGADE: The Mavericks don’t have a sixth-man, per se. They have depth by committee. On Wednesday, Josh Green was a major positive when he piled up 10 points and nine rebounds. He only had one assist, but it was to Christian Wood for a game-sealing three-pointer in the final moments. “I thought Josh gave us energy on both offense and defense,” Kidd said. “He had (eight defensive) rebounds to help us where it wasn’t going to be 30 offensive rebounds for Sacramento. I thought his energy, his aggressiveness to get to the paint and then being able to play-make. Finding C-Wood was a big play for us.” Wood, by the way, had 14 points off the bench in 25 minutes. While he didn’t shoot the ball well early, he came through late with the big triple.