With a favorable early schedule, the Mavericks felt it was imperative to get off to a fast start this season.
Not only did the Mavericks put a lid on their perfect home stand with a 143-101 win over Cleveland, they successfully navigated through arguably the easiest portion of their schedule.
The first 15 games featured nine at home and 11 that were against teams that as of Friday owned a losing record.
The Mavericks took advantage. They sit at 10-5 and among the top five in the Western Conference.
The degree of difficulty goes up – way up – starting Sunday in Houston against the Rockets. But the Mavericks will worry about that later.
For now, they are thrilled to have protected their court at American Airlines Center and finish a 4-0 home stand – the first time they’ve done that since January, 2011.
“The record could have been even better than what it is,” said Kristaps Porzingis, who had 17 points and seven rebounds in less than three quarters of work. “It’s still not bad, But we lost some games we shouldn’t have lost – the two Knicks games and Portland, LA. But 10-5 is fine and we’re looking forward to the next stretch.”
The Mavericks put together another thorough whipping of an outmanned opponent – they clobbered Golden State by 48 on Wednesday – and had royalty in attendance while they were doing it.
It was the first night this season that the greatest Mav of them all, Dirk Nowitzki, made an appearance at a home game. Nowitzki sat with proprietor Mark Cuban and fellow 2011 champion Shawn Marion near the Mavericks’ bench and received a rousing ovation when he was shown on the big screen.
It was another highlight of a night – and a 15-game stretch – with lots of them.
“It was great,” said Luka Doncic of having Nowitzki in the house. “It’s always special to have him there to watch us. Obviously, he’s going to come more.”
Asked if he would have liked for Nowitzki to put on a uniform and join the team for a night, Doncic laughed and said: “No, I think we’re good.”
Doncic had another strong night with 30 points, 14 assists and seven rebounds. Like Porzingis, he exited late in the third quarter and his skills weren’t needed in the fourth.
Doncic carved up the Cavaliers’ defense in much the same fashion as he did when he had 29 points, 14 rebounds and 15 assists in the 131-111 win at Cleveland earlier this month.
“He’s a guy who has a great feel for the game,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He has the tools to counter what defenses throw at him. He’s seen everything this year. Toronto came in here and threw two zones, a box-and-one, big defenders, small defenders, trapping in open-court situations. He plays the game the right way and he moves it to the right people.”
He’s obviously a big reason why the Mavericks are in a strong position a little over a month into the season.
As recently as two seasons ago, the Mavericks didn’t reach 10 wins until after Christmas. So to have 10 before Thanksgiving is a legitimate blessing.
“In virtually any sport . . . playing from in front is huge,” Carlisle said. “This first 15 games of the schedule has been one of our favorable stretches for the whole season. As we go along, we’ve got more road games against better and better teams. You got to get as many as you can as quickly as you can and keep going.”
Doncic got great support from Tim Hardaway Jr., who had 16 points before leaving the game in the third quarter after cracking heads with teammate Kristaps Porzingis. Both hit the floor and Hardaway got the worst of the collision as he went to the locker room and did not return to the game.
Hardaway briefly went through concussion protocol, but was deemed to be fine after the game. By the way, he hit 4-of-5 3-pointers, making him 8-of-9 in his last two games which not coincidentally were his first two starts of the season.
The Mavericks’ bench contributed mightily, too, as they spurred a strong second-quarter run that turned a 29-26 lead into a 66-42 advantage at halftime.The Mavericks’ reserves outscored their Cleveland counterparts 64-28.