While three of their key players were out Saturday night to comply with the NBA’s medical protocols, the rest of the Mavericks seemed to be the picture of health.
They took care of business in the form of a 112-98 victory over the Orlando Magic at American Airlines Center, their third consecutive win, which pushed their record above .500 for the first time this season at 5-4.
The win was built not on the shoulders of Luka Dončić, although he certainly did his part, but on the strength of sensational shooting nights from Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke.
Hardaway was back in the starting lineup because starters Dorian Finney-Smith and Josh Richardson were unable to play because of the league’s health and safety protocols. Also missing was key reserve Jalen Brunson.
So all Hardaway did was pour in 30 points – in the first three quarters – with 16 coming in the third frame when the Mavericks fell behind, then rallied to go up 85-75 heading into the fourth quarter. Hardaway finished with 36 points.
Burke? After missing the game at Denver on Thursday, he rebounded by hitting seven of his eight 3-pointers and finishing with 29 points.
It was by far the Mavericks’ best shooting performance of the season as they were over 50 percent from 3-point range virtually the enter game.
“Trey Burke was spectacular. Hardaway was spectacular,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “Luka, you almost expect him to go for a triple-double type night. And we had a lot of other guys do a lot of good things. A really important win coming off the situation in Denver.”
The situation in Denver was what caused the Mavericks to be so shorthanded. But they had great showings from Hardaway and Burke.
And Dončić wasn’t bad, either. He notched the 27th triple-double of his career with 20 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
It was a momentum-swinging third quarter that put the Mavericks in control. They had lost the lead and were down 65-59 until Hardaway caught fire and sparked the Mavericks on a 26-10 finish to the third quarter. They nursed that 85-75 lead to the finish line.
Carlisle gave Dončić big credit not for what he did on the court, but for what happened before the game. The Mavericks, because of the events in Denver, could not have a morning shootaround.
“So we got here at 5 o’clock and I was really impressed with our level of focus and concentration,” Carlisle said. “And it all started with Luka. He was really dialed in. He understood exactly what the situation was. He knew this was a game where we couldn’t have a lot of slippage. And he set the tone. That’s the sign of a guy who is a great leader on a team.”
Dončić just shrugged it off.
“That’s got to be every game,” he said. “We’re trying to win every game whether we have six players or 15. But I think we did a great job today, especially on the defensive end.”
It makes everybody’s life easier when shots are going in. And Hardaway and Burke saw to that. They were a combined 23-of-33 from the field.
“They were hot players, the whole game,” Dončić said. “You make a pass, you know you’re going to get an assist. It was great.”
Said Carlisle of Burke: “He’s a dangerous scorer. One reason I think he plays well for us is that he knows we have great confidence in him. And he’s a guy who can just get white-hot out there.”
Burke, who went through a COVID-19 quarantine before joining the Mavericks in the Orlando bubble last season, said he could definitely relate to what Brunson, Richardson and Finney-Smith are going through.
“There’s a lot of time to yourself,” he said. “And that can go one of two ways. That’s going to be my encouragement to (those guys). It’s a tough time. But try to use this isolation time. Work on your soul and you’ll come back prepared.
“That’s the nature of this league. You never know how things are going to go. This is all new for all of us. But I’m going to try to encourage those three guys not to be down on themselves and we’re looking forward to them coming back.”
For one night, Burke and Hardaway took up all the slack, which completed a tough two-step through Texas for the Magic. After getting waxed by 42 points in Houston on Friday, they were rudely booted out of the state on Saturday, although the Magic showed considerably more life than they had the previous night against the Rockets.
It is the Mavericks’ ninth consecutive win over the Magic in Dallas.
The win also was the 799th of Rick Carlisle’s coaching career. One more and he’ll become the 16th member of the 800-win club in NBA history.
And it was a game that Hardaway could take great pride in. He’s now had 30-plus-point games as both a starter and a reserve in the last week.
“My job right now is to be an energy-giver, not an energy-drainer,” Hardaway said. “When I go out there, just try to compete the entire time.”
And as for the coronavirus, Hardaway said: “Whatever team figures everything out the quickest is going to find themselves in the postseason feeling good about themselves. Unfortunately, there are three guys back in Denver, but it’s next-man-up. Those guys encourage that.”