NEW YORK – Anybody who says four games into an NBA season is too early to push the panic button clearly isn’t a Brooklyn Nets fan.
More on that in a moment.
When it comes to the Mavericks, they proved with their 129-125 victory over the Nets Thursday night that they’re moving along just fine.
On Saturday, they’ll play their fifth game. That’s the equivalent of playing one regular-season NFL game.
But that doesn’t keep people from knee-jerking in that league, nor does it in the NBA.
By splitting their first four games, the Mavericks have survived a challenging early stretch.
“Honestly, I feel like we can do a lot better,” Tim Hardaway Jr. said. “But it’s only four games. Four games in, 2-2, .500 0 – I’ll take it.”
Especially with 10 of their next 12 games coming up at American Airlines Center.
So here’s our takeaways from Thursday’s overtime win at Brooklyn.
WORLD ACCORDING TO LUKA: Luka Dončić had a crazy triple-double with 41 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds. It was his passing that made the difference in crunch time. Even the passes that didn’t lead to assists. His penetration and kick-out to Reggie Bullock yielded an open 3-pointer that narrowly missed. While that led to overtime, several Mavericks said that play was the boost in confidence that helped them roll the Nets early in the fourth quarter. “We got to attack the paint,” Dončić said. “When we attack the paint, we’re a very dangerous team. That’s the way we got to play every game. I think I had two on me. So it was a good play to pass to Reggie. I thought it was going in, too.”And Luka had some outrageous assists, too, like the over-the-head dish to Maxi Kleber for a layup in the second quarter. “You don’t really prepare (for that),” he said. “Sometimes in practice I try things, do some dumb things, maybe. But sometimes in games, they work.” Kleber said that after playing with Luka for five seasons now, he kind of expects those off-the-grid passes. And teammates rely for Luka to make the right play. “I don’t always do it, but yeah,” Luka said about always making the right basketball play. “Sometimes it’s going to work, sometimes not. For now, it was a good decision. But if (we) lost, it wasn’t going to be a good decision.”
WINING WITH OFFENSE: The Mavericks will always stress defense, but early in the NBA season, scoring is up and coach Jason Kidd said that the Mavericks have to be adaptable to that trend. “It’s not easy to win in this league,” he said. “We’re starting to learn what we have to do. There’s some clean up on the defensive end. But scores are high right now. We can’t be uncomfortable scoring 125.” Kidd, by the way, went with a different closing lineup, leaving Christian Wood and Spencer Dinwiddie on the bench while Hardaway and Kleber played really well down the stretch. When you get down to it, there’s really only one Maverick that for sure will be on the court at crunch time – although Dorian Finney-Smith and Reggie Bullock have the defensive mentality to join Luka on most occasions.
ABOUT THOSE NETS: They fell to 1-4. It appeared they were getting a glimmer of hope when much-maligned Ben Simmons stole the ball from Luka late in regulation and it led to Kevin Durant’s throw-down. But that moment of greatness was overshadowed by a terrible showing in overtime. The Nets have too much talent to be a bad team. Durant and Kyrie Irving are going to win their share of games on their own. But until they figure out the Simmons conundrum, it’s going to be a rocky ride for them.
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