MIAMI – After what he’s been able to accomplish in recent weeks, Kristaps Porzingis admits that playing the center position is more to his liking than playing power forward.
“When I’m at the (power forward position) I only have the option to pop, and when I’m at the (center position) I can pick-and-pop and roll,” the fourth-year veteran said. “So I can mix it up and just be more involved.”
Porzingis certainly has been a bigger weapon for the Mavericks recently. Over the last nine games he’s averaging 26.4 points and 10.4 rebounds. He’s shooting 50.7 percent from the field (74-of-146), 38.4 percent from 3-point land (28-of-73), and 86.1 percent from the charity stripe (62-of-72).
In Wednesday’s 109-103 victory in San Antonio, Porzingis finished with game highs in points (28) and rebounds (12), and was an economical 8-of-14 from the field and a sharp 4-of-8 from downtown. He also blocked three shots and recorded a pair of steals.
“He was doing everything,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “His activity was great, he cut and finished at the rim, he knocked in three threes.
“A lot of it came off the two-man action with Luka (Doncic). KP is really playing beautifully.”
The Mavs (36-23) hope Porzingis can continue that when they face the Miami Heat (36-22) on Friday at 7 p.m. at American Airlines Arena in the second game of a four-game road trip as they continue to angle for playoff positioning.
“He’s playing a patient disciplined game on offense, and defensively he’s patrolling the lane and he’s making it really difficult,” Carlisle said. “He affected no less than six or eight shots (Wednesday), and you can easily point to that as the difference in the game.”
At 7-3, Porzingis believes he can be even more impactful and effective as a center than as a power forward.
“I’m trailing all the time now as the big guy,” he said. “I’m not just running down and staying in the corner, or on the perimeter waiting for something to happen.
“So it’s much better like this. I like playing this way much better. That’s what I’m more used to.”
Doncic also has noticed a change in Porzingis’ game as a center.
“It’s working well,” Doncic said. “Obviously he can roll, he can pop.
“That’s why it’s good to have him at (the center spot).”
Against the Spurs, Porzingis scored the first six points of a game-changing 12-0 run that freed the Mavs from a 96-96 tie and gave them a 108-96 lead with 1:52 remaining in the game. For Porzingis, that’s a sign that the Mavs are patching up the leaky holes in the late-game issues that have plagued them most of this season.
“We have a stretch now here where Miami is the toughest out of these first seven games coming up now,” Porzingis said. “But all of the other games — and the Atlanta game, too, that we didn’t win — are really winnable games, and those are our games. We can’t let them slip.
“Even Miami. We feel like we can beat anybody, but that’s a tougher task to do. We’re just playing with high confidence and going game-by-game and seeing where we’ll end up at the end of the season.”
LUKA TURNS 21: Mavs point guard Luka Doncic will be celebrating his 21st birthday on Friday – the same night Dallas plays the Miami Heat. Asked if he has any special plans for his birthday, Doncic said: “Win the game.”
So what does turning 21 years old mean in Slovenia?
“Nothing,” Doncic said. “In my country you’re an adult at 18.”
Center Kristaps Porzingis, who, like Doncic, also was 19 years old when he entered the NBA in 2015, was asked what he did to celebrate his 21st birthday.
“I don’t remember, but I had fun,” the 24-year old Porzingis said. “But you’ve got to have fun when you’re young.”
After collecting 26 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists in the win over the Spurs, Doncic is now tied with Jason Kidd for the most triple-doubles in Mavs’ history with 21. If the stars align correctly, he could own the franchise record in triple-doubles outright on the same day he turns 21.
“With respect to stats, it’s unlimited (what Doncic’s ceiling is),” coach Rick Carlisle said. “But he’s not about stats — he’s about winning.
“He knows what championship basketball is about because of his experience with Real Madrid. He’s played in a lot of buildings like the AT&T Center (in San Antonio), and his experience in those situations he brings to our situation. Plus, he’s learned some of the NBA elements as he’s gone along.”
Without revealing much, Porzingis admits there’s a secret plan to help Doncic celebrate his birthday by saying: “I think we’re going to have some fun.”
Does than plan include a birthday cake?
“For sure,” Porzingis said. “I’ll bake it.”