Kristaps has been a scoring, rebounding, shot-blocking machine for more than a month.
He’s averaged 27.7 points, 11 rebounds and 2.4 blocks since Jan. 31.
But on Friday night in a game that the Mavericks desperately needed to build on a kernel of momentum on their home court, it was a play in the second quarter of Friday night’s 121-96 win over Memphis that got Porzingis more attention than any of his offensive or defensive moves.
He hit the floor while scrambling for a loose ball, came up with the possession in traffic and got it out of a mess of players to a teammate for a fresh possession.
The crowd acknowledged the hustle play with a cheer of approval and the Mavericks at that point knew they were playing exactly the way they need to play to beat teams like Memphis, which is desperately trying to hold on to the last playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Of course, the play did not come without a fair amount of razzing from teammates in the postgame locker room, especially from one of his longtime teammates.
“I get nervous,” said Courtney Lee with a laugh. “You’re not used to doing that. Don’t be doing all that.
“Nah, really, it’s good to see one of your best players out there sacrificing his body for the team trying to get an extra possession.”
Said Luka Doncic: “He’s been doing it all season. He’s great at the defensive end. He’s averaging five blocks in the last three games. He’s been great all year.”
Porzingis, by the way, was big-time in all his usual areas, too. He continued the massive roll he’s been on lately with 26 points, 11 rebounds and four blocked shots. He also had three steals and four assists.
This came after Porzingis played a season-high 45 minutes in the overtime win Wednesday against New Orleans. That was a game that coach Rick Carlisle called “a great test” for Porzingis, one that he passed with flying colors.
And the way he came back strong on Friday provided more proof that Porzingis is on one of the best runs of his career – if not the best.
“Probably feel better,” he said, comparing this season to his best years in New York. “It took me a little bit of time to figure some things out and feel comfortable out there. Now, it feels natural, organic.”
But this is nowhere near his finished product, he said.
“I’m 24, I have so much room to grow as a player, physically, mentally and skill-wise, also,” he said. “The offseason is a good time to work on new stuff to add to your game. I still feel like I have so much room to grow.”
The victory pushed the Mavericks to 2-0 on this home stand and they reached 14 games over .500 for the first time this season at 39-25. They continue to stay right in the shadows of Houston, Utah and Oklahoma City, all of whom are bunched tightly in the standings in spots 4 through 7 in the West.
Porzingis has been a monster pretty much ever since he returned from missing 10 games in early January.
Against the Grizzlies, on a night when Doncic clearly wasn’t feeling like himself after missing Thursday’s practice because he was under the weather and still feeling the impact of a sore left thumb, Porzingis was a beast again.
And we may only be seeing the beginning of greatness for Porzingis.
“He’s 24 and he’s working extremely hard,” Carlisle said of Porzingis before the game. “I believe every 24 year old player that has his kind of ability and skill and work ethic is going to continue to get better.
“Everyone is caught up in the offensive stats but for me it is a combination of his offensive production, what he is doing defensively, and rebounding. It is ridiculous, with the rim protection, shot changing, and the defensive rebounding, he has put together a tremendous three or four weeks of basketball. It has been really great to watch.”
The Mavericks actually trailed in this game 39-37 midway through the second quarter. Then they outscored the Grizzlies 54-21 during the rest of the half and the first 10 minutes of the third quarter to salt away the game.
That they are finally doing some damage on the home court is encouraging for the Mavericks.
They will close out this home stand Sunday against Indiana. They have won four consecutive games at AAC to improve their overall home record to 18-14. If they can beat the Pacers, it will be the first time this season they’ve won five games at home.
Injury update: The Mavericks lost Seth Curry during the second quarter when he suffered an apparent ankle injury.
He left the game and did not return. The Mavericks already were without Dorian Finney-Smith (hip) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (illness).
“I think there’s a good chance we’ll get Dorian back on Sunday,” Carlisle said of Indiana’s visit to AAC. “Tim’s home, not feeling well. Hopefully he’s feeling well enough to play Sunday. If not, we’ll have to adjust.
“Seth doesn’t appear to be serious, but he’s sore. And how he feels (Saturday) will go a long way toward whether he may or may not be available on Sunday.”
Carlisle got creative with the playing rotation against the Grizzlies, starting three guards (Doncic, Courtney Lee and Curry). Justin Jackson and Delon Wright all played large roles.
“It is becoming a bit of a battle of attrition with some of the injuries, but the way everybody stepped up tonight was terrific,” Carlisle said. “This is why you build a deep roster. And this really is an important stretch here. The last 18 games (will be) very meaningful. We’re showing signs of growth.”