If there was any doubt on whether the Dallas Mavericks were worthy of a No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, they erased it with a dominant performance Saturday afternoon at American Airlines Center.
Luka Doncic joined Michael Jordan on another historic list, and the Mavs used an amazing 40-14 third-quarter blitz to power past the New Orleans Pelicans, 130-84, before a sellout crowd of 19,456.
It was the 10th win in their last 11 games for the Mavs and padded their record to 16-6. Their fifth straight victory pushed them 10 games over .500 for the first time since the 2014-’15 season. It’s also the first time they’ve put together three wins in a single season by 40 or more points.
“We did some good thing,” said coach Rick Carlisle, whose team will host the Sacramento Kings on Sunday at 6 p.m. “Our defense probably wasn’t as good as it looked in the second half.
“They missed a lot of shots they normally make, so we got a little lucky there. But hey, it’s a win we got to get, and we got to try to get ourselves positioned to play well tomorrow, so we’ll get our guys off their feet. Sacramento’s coming in here playing well.”
Behind 11 points and five assists from Luka Doncic, the Mavs marched ahead, 31-28, after the first quarter. They stretched that lead out to 64-52 at intermission before blowing the game wide-open in a third quarter that ended with the Mavs ahead, 104-66.
“We came out in the second half, in the third quarter especially, where we took care of business and finished the game right there,” forward Kristaps Porzingis said. “And the rest of the game was just a formality.
“I think we’re getting more comfortable with each other on the defensive end. Guys are getting used to playing with me where they know if somebody drives that I’m around the rim somewhere and I can protect the rim and they don’t have to foul in a lot of situations. And I think it’s just us holding each other accountable on the defensive end, also.”
The Mavs shot 53.5 percent from the field while holding the Pelicans to 36 percent shooting, including just 3-of-32 shooting from 3-point range. Dallas also led by as much as 50 points – 130-80 – following a 3-pointer by Courtney Lee with 2:17 to go in the game.
The only dark spot for the Mavs was the first quarter right adductor strain to guard Delon Wright that sacked him for the rest of the game,
“He’s got a groin strain,” Carlisle sad. “Hopefully not serious. It’s very unlikely he’ll play tomorrow. We’ll monitor it very closely and then we’ll play tomorrow and then we don’t play again until Thursday. So we’ll see how it goes.”
Meanwhile, Doncic finished with 26 points, six rebounds and nine assists in 26 minutes, leaving for good with 2:20 remaining in the third quarter and the Mavs owning a commanding 94-60 lead. That’s 18 straight games Doncic has produced at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists, tying him with Michael Jordan as the only players to accomplish the feat for this many games since the NBA/ABA merger in 1976.
“It was just important that we got a win,” said Doncic, who was 8-of-15 from the field. “That’s all that matters for me.
“It was a great win for us.”
In his assessment of Doncic, Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said: “He’s very good at getting into the paint and finding open guys. That’s how they get a lot of their 3-point shots, and then you have to be in his air space to challenge those 3-point step-back shots that he makes. He just plays the game the way everyone would like to see everyone play the game, really.”
This also was a terrific game for Boban Marjanovic as the backup center came off the bench to score a season-high 15 points and snatch a season-high 16 rebounds.
“You can’t stop Boban,” said Porzingis, who contributed 13 points and five boards. “He played great on the boards – he’s so big, so strong.
“Once he gets the ball in the paint you can’t really do much out there. It was good to see him get himself going.”
Perhaps the Mavs were spurred on by the fact that thanks to losses by Denver and the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night, Dallas leapfrogged from the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference to the No. 2 seed. Either way, the Mavs have now beaten the Pelicans three times this season — including twice in the last five days — and Dallas didn’t play any of its starters in the fourth quarter.
“That was huge,” Porzingis said, referring to the light duty by the starters. “Everybody who came in today contributed.
“Our offense is almost every night there. But it’s the defense that we’ve got to bring every night and I think we’re doing a better job of being consistent with it.”
The Mavs also got productive nights from Tim Hardaway Jr. (14 points), Jalen Brunson (14 points, 18 minutes), and Seth Curry (11 points).
“I think they’re a very good team,” Gentry said. “They’ve proven that. They’ve had wins over some really good teams — you look at the Laker game. Without injuries, they’re going to be a good solid team for the remainder of the year.”