Kristaps Porzingis had a forgettable first half Friday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Then came a third quarter that he’ll probably never forget.
After scoring just two points on 1-of-8 shooting in 16 first-half minutes against the Cavs, Porzingis regrouped at the half and poured in 15 points on 6-of-6 shooting while playing 11 minutes in the third quarter. His performance was pivotal in the Mavs’ 143-101 blowout triumph over the Cavs before a sellout crowd of 19,639 at American Airlines Center.
Porzingis said he talked to point guard Luka Doncic at halftime about getting him more involved, and the chat apparently worked. In the third quarter, Porzingis fired in a 16-footer, got an alley-oop dunk, got a cutting dunk and then drilled two 3-pointers. Doncic assisted on all of those baskets.
“Luka found me with some open threes, and I knocked down shots,” Porzingis said. “I had like three or four — maybe even five shots — in the first half that were in and out, easy shots for me.
“It frustrated me a little bit, but I tried to go into the second half with a fresh mindset. I talked to Luka on how he could get me involved a little bit, and in the third quarter I was more involved and I knocked down good looks and that was it.”
Porzingis entered the game with double-doubles in four consecutive games for the first time in his career. He finished Friday’s game with 17 points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots, and left the game for good with 1:06 remaining in the third quarter and the Mavs sitting on a comfortable 106-68 lead.
“What KP is doing defensively, will anybody please write a story about that,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “It’s unbelievable.
“And he was headed for another double-double if he would have played normal minutes tonight.”
Carlisle is impressed with the way Porzingis is clogging up the paint and making life miserable for opposing teams.
“Defensively, he’s a great pick-and-roll defender, he’s a presence at the rim, he’s a great rebounder, a great outlet passer,” Carlisle said. “Those are parts of his game that gets overlooked because of his ability to score.”
Friday was the 200th game of Porzingis’ career. But he already had become the first player in NBA history with at least 300 made 3-pointers and at least 400 blocked shots in under 200 games.
All of that is why he has been dubbed The Unicorn
“That’s something I love to do,” Porzingis said, referring to banging in 3-pointers and blocking shots. “My ability to stretch the floor and my ability to protect the rim and protect the paint (is a plus). I just play my game and those numbers come.”
At 7-3 and 240 pounds, Porzingis is a rangy player who the Mavs acquired in a Jan. 31 blockbuster trade with the New York Knicks. The move helped solidify one of the five starting spots for the Mavs for many years to come.
“He’s been very, very good defensively,” Carlisle said. “He’s a very unique player with his length, size, anticipation.
“His ability to block shots is tremendous, and he’s very, very good at keeping the ball in play or blocking it to a teammate or to himself. It’s been a big factor in some games that we won. I’m real happy for him.”
Porzingis will be real happy, too, if the Mavs on Sunday can defeat the Rockets, one of the best teams in the NBA. And since the Mavs went 4-0 on this home stand, Porzingis knows the Mavs are brimming with confidence and believe they have the necessary momentum to upend the Rockets.
“As a group right now I think these kinds of wins should only give us more confidence,” Porzingis said. “The way we’ve been playing at home we also want to bring that on the road now against Houston. Houston is tough. They always score a lot of points, get up and down, so we’ve got to play with high confidence, high intensity on defense, and then compete hard and I’m sure we’ll have an opportunity to win the game.”
DIRK WAS IN THE HOUSE: Guess who attended Friday’s Mavs-Cavs game?
None other than Dirk Nowitzki, the holder of most Mavs’ franchise record and the centerpiece of the team’s 2011 NBA championship squad. Nowitzki sat next to proprietor Mark Cuban on the baseline near the Mavs’ bench, and received a thunderous ovation when his face was put on the overhead Jumbotron.
“It was awesome,” forward Kristaps Porzingis said. “He had a nice sweater on. I like the sweater that he was wearing.”
Porzingis was asked how important is it to show Nowitzki that the Mavs are in good hands with him and point guard Luka Doncic running the show.
“It’s important for us to do our job,” Porzingis said. “I’m here to win, I’m here to make this team a better team, and I’m trying to do my part and I’m sure Luka is trying to do his part, and he’s doing it well.
“We just want to do the right thing and play the right way and make this team grow each day and hopefully we can get to the ultimate goal at the end. As I said before, those are some huge shoes that we have to fill with Dirk, and his career and how high he set the standard for this organization.”
Nowitzki retired last spring after spending his entire 21-year career with the Mavs.
CURRY STILL ILL: Guard Seth Curry missed his second straight game Friday with an illness.
“He’s doing better,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He did some things in our shootaround (Friday) morning, but he’s just not there. He’s not quite feeling as good as he needs to feel.”
Curry last played in Monday’s 117-110 win over San Antonio, scoring seven points in 27 minutes.