It was a magnificent coming-out party for the Luka Doncic-Kristaps Porzingis pairing in a 108-100 victory over Washington Wednesday at American Airlines Center.
But if you’re looking for the moment when the Mavericks’ season-opening win shifted in their favor, you’ll have to zero in on a stretch when at least one of them – and for a time both of the young stars – were on the bench.
The Mavericks trailed 22-17 with 2 minutes left in the first half. Doncic took a seat. Porzingis would join him on the bench three minutes into the second quarter.
By the time Doncic returned to the floor, the Mavericks had a 37-29 lead and had completely switched the momentum in such a way that the Wizards never fully recovered.
During that 20-7 blitz, Porzingis made his presence known with seven points. But it also featured Justin Jackson and Jalen Brunson with two buckets each. Then a 3-pointer by Seth Curry and a floater from Curry.
And just like that, the Mavericks were in control.
Maybe Rick Carlisle knows a thing or two when it comes to this coaching business. He’d been saying throughout training camp that this would be a deep, versatile team. Strength in numbers would have to be a calling card.
On opening night, it was.
“We’re still figuring out the lineups and rotations,” Curry said after the game. “But we definitely got a deep team and a lot of guys that can score the ball. We kind of got an embarrassment of riches coming off the bench. It should be a weapon for us all season.”
Carlisle played 10 players. None of them were named J.J. Barea or Boban Marjanovic, two veterans who figure to be important parts of the rotation sooner rather than later. This wasn’t their night, which is OK. Their time will come later.
On this night, the bench group of Curry, Jackson, Brunson, Dorian Finney-Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr. were terrific. All of them had a positive plus-minus, including plus-18 for Finney-Smith, plus-10 for Jackson and plus-9 for Curry.
“We’re a deep team,” said Courtney Lee, who got the start at small forward. “When Tim went down and twisted his ankle, Justin was the next man up, came in and played well with backdoor cuts, layups. It’s a credit to our depth.
“And then you get those two big European studs on the same team, it’s fun to watch. My job was easy out there. All I had to do was chase (Bradley ) Beal off and when you get an open shot, you got to shoot it.”
It’s true that the Mavericks know where their bread is buttered. Doncic and Porzingis combined for 57 points and they are going to be the anchors of this team.
But having a strength-in-numbers mentality almost always pays dividends in the NBA, because injuries and slumps and other things invariably happen. Having quality depth to weather those storms is crucial.
Interestingly, Curry’s outing was a bit of a surprise given his trouble-filled training camp. He had a bothersome knee injury that cost him some game and practice time. And then there was a fluke injury that came when the tornado earlier this week did some damage to his house.
“Seth Curry didn’t get a great rhythm during the preseason games,” Carlisle said. “He got a knee banged and missed a game and a half.
“And then he was doing something at home and his hand got stuck in a door and his two middle fingers on his left hand got scraped. He’s been practicing with his fingers taped up and we didn’t even know if he was going to play.”
Curry explained further: “A little mishap around the house with the tornado. I cut my fingers up pretty good on my left hand a couple days ago. I got it taped up. I’m trying to get used to playing with them (bandaged). I dropped a couple passes and the ball slipped out of my hand one time.”
Still, Curry finished with nine points. Finney-Smith had 10 points and eight rebounds while Jackson had 10 points.
All in all, a wonderful night for a supporting cast that was overshadowed by the Big Two.
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