Taking stock after three games, five days and zero home-cooked meals, the Mavericks know that things could be worse.
Yes, they had two clunkers to start the westward three-game trip. But they finished it with a show-us-your-resolve bashing of the Los Angeles Clippers. So they come home with a 1-2 record headed into the home opener on Wednesday against Charlotte.
“This has been a tough stretch,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “A lot of attention. A lot of focus. Everybody should clear their heads.”
To that end, the Mavericks took a mental health day on Monday. After three nationally televised games against high-profile teams, they have had a lot of wear and tear in terms of traveling, medical protocols, isolation in their Los Angeles hotel for four days and all the responsibilities that come with playing on ABC, ESPN and NBA TV.
Even if you don’t spend a lot of time out of the house, it’s still nice to be home and vegging out on your own couch.
The 124-73 win over the Clippers certainly was an eye-grabber. The 50-point lead the Mavericks had at halftime was the biggest in NBA history and looks even more impressive when you see it in print: 77-27.
In other words, the Mavericks could have taken a knee and gone scoreless in the second half and still won.
“We showed who we really are,” said Luka Dončić, before quickly adding, “but it’s a long season.”
It’s also a season in which differentiating between home and road games isn’t easy. As Carlisle mentioned, it’s like there are no home or road games, what with fans not allowed at most NBA venues.
That could change in 2021, but for now, the Mavericks will play the Hornets on Wednesday and the New Year’s Day game against Miami with no spectators in the stands, citing the need for safety measures for players, staff and fans.
Still, getting home was a good thing for the Mavericks late Sunday after the stunning blowout of the Clippers.
They showed in that game what they are capable of when the bodies and the ball move. They had 25 assists, which may not sound like a huge number, and it’s not. Unless you compare it to the 17 they had at Phoenix and the 20 they had against the Lakers.
It was a prime example of how the Mavericks need to play. And they figure to get even more versatile when Kristaps Porzingis returns sometime in January. While his return will require an adjustment time, it also will give the Mavericks their preferred playing rotation, whether it’s Dwight Powell, Dorian Finney-Smith or Tim Hardaway Jr. who gets moved into the sixth-man role.
So lots of positives coming off the massive win and looking forward to Porzingis’ return.
However, at the risk of being Debbie Downer, it must be pointed out that the Mavericks are not 51 points better than the Clippers. Nor are they 23 points worse than the LA Lakers, who beat the Mavericks 138-115 on Christmas.
The truth is somewhere in between. But that points out an early trend for this team. They are capable of great moments. And the occasional stinker, too.
You know how coaches and players preach that they try to never get too high or too low during the course of a long season?
To heck with that.
After the 51-point win over the Los Angeles Clippers, who among the Mavericks’ traveling party wouldn’t admit that they could fly back to Dallas without assistance from the team plane.
It was completely opposite from the feelings after the Lakers’ game.
Maybe that’s the way it will be this year, although you’d probably see the smoke coming out of Carlisle’s ears if that’s the case.
Hopefully, there will be some consistency developed along the way – the winning kind.