OUR FIVE TAKEAWAYS FROM THE 102-98 WIN OVER SAN ANTONIO
THE RETURN OF LUKA: In his first game back after missing four games with a right ankle sprain, Luka Doncic reminded everyone how important he is to the Mavs. While playing 33 minutes, Doncic poured in 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds against the Spurs. Doncic’s shooting touch wasn’t up to his high standards – he was 9-of-23 from the field – but he offset that by distributing eight assists and handing out his usual array of unforgettable passes. Afterward, Doncic admitted that he was a bit winded late in the game. And he committed three turnovers less than five minutes into the game – and none during the remaining portion of the game. All in all, the Mavs gave Doncic’s return two thumbs up for the way he helped control the flow of the game.
MAGIC JOHNSON REVISTED: To paraphrase that national insurance company commercial, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich knows a thing or two because he’s seen a thing or two. Unquestionably one of the NBA’s all-time greatest coach, Popovich couldn’t resist heaping praise upon Mavs point guard Luka Doncic. “I hate to say this, he’s not Magic Johnson, but it’s Magic Johnson-like in the sense that he sees the floor in that same way,” Popovich said. “He’s got a real intuitive sense, and you can’t teach that. He’s just got it and he’s great at it. I’m not trying to put the Magic Johnson pressure on him — he’s not ready for that yet. But he’s doing a hell of a job.” Popovich should know. Now 70, Popovich coached the Spurs to five world titles, and also is a four-time NBA All-Star game coach and a three-time Coach of the Year winner.
HARDAWAY DISPLAYED HIS VALUE: For the umpteenth time, Tim Hardaway Jr. continues to show his value to the Mavs’ organization. Hardaway tallied 17 points against the Spurs, and the seven baskets he made in 14 attempts always seemed like they started or continued a Mavs rally, or put the brakes on a San Antonio rally. Hardaway, who also was 3-of-6 from 3-point land in 28 minutes, is averaging 17.8 points over the past six games. Not bad for a player who started the season coming off the bench, but has been so productive that he is now entrenched in the starting lineup. As the Mavs’ third-leading scorer behind Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, Hardaway has shown time and again that he has the wherewithal to bury a key jumper when the opportunity presents itself.
DELIVERING THE (W)RIGHT STUFF: There’s nothing flashy about Delon Wright’s game or his off the court mannerisms. He simply goes about his duties in a no nonsense workmanlike fashion, and the results are usually very solid. He also usually finds a way to fill up the stat sheet. That was the case Thursday as Wright came off the bench to collect 12 points, five rebounds, four assists and a game-high tying three steals. When the Mavs got some comfortable separation between themselves and the Spurs, it was Wright who was right smack in the middle of that separation. During a three minute and 41 second span when Dallas was stretching its lead from 82-79 to 100-85, Wright nailed a pair of 3-pointers to give the Mavs some much needed breathing room.
PORZINGIS SHOWED OTHER FACETS OF HIS GAME: Every player who’s ever worn an NBA uniform has gone through tough shooting nights. Kristaps Porzingis had one against the Spurs. The 7-3 power forward was just 4-of-15 from the field in 35 minutes. However, Porzingis found other ways to contribute as he pulled down eight rebounds, dispensed three assists and also recorded a steal and blocked a shot. Plus, his back-to-back 3-pointers at the outset of the fourth quarter ignited the Mavs’ winning rally. Before Thursday’s game, Porzingis went through a period where he collected five consecutive double-doubles. That includes manufacturing four consecutive 20-point, 10-rebound games for the first time in his career, proving that he has once and for all put the left ACL surgery on Feb. 13, 2018, in his rear view mirror.