First, it was Reggie Bullock spotting up in the corner and drilling three-pointers.
Then it was Tim Hardaway Jr.
Newcomer Justin Holiday got into the mix in a big way with all 15 of his first points as a Maverick coming from three-point land.
Yes, this Luka Dončić-Kyrie Irving experiment just might have a chance.
The Mavericks returned from the All-Star break by scoring a season-high in points and shooting a season-best three-point percentage as they rolled to a 142-116 blowout of the San Antonio Spurs Thursday night at American Airlines Center.
“The ball was moving,” coach Jason Kidd said. “We saw that before the break. Guys moving, too. And your quarterbacks with Kai and LD finding guys. The ball doesn’t stick. People have said Luka and Kai need the ball. Well, they also know how to use their teammates and their teammates are delivering right now.”
This is what happens when the system works the way it’s supposed to. Dončić had 28 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds and Irving had 23 points and six assists.
And all anybody could talk about was the supporting cast, who helped the Mavericks go 22-of-42 from distance (52.4 percent).
It was a rousing success in their return to action. There was no real rust, just a team that is eager to find its way with a fresh cast of characters.
It was good to see Irving and Dončić meshing. But that didn’t always manifest itself in them padding their point totals. They continually found each other and shooters like Bullock, Hardaway and Christian Wood for wide-open perimeter shots. Those three combined for 50 points.
It also marked the debut of Holiday, the slender swingman who knocked in a three-pointer for his first Maverick points and finished by hitting 5-of-6 from beyond the arc for 15 points to go with two steals.
Not a bad first impression.
“It was all right,” Kidd deadpanned when asked of Holiday’s first Maverick game. “He could start here. Just to look at that and see how he does in the starting role. He’s a pro. He’s won a championship (when he was at Golden State). He’s happy to be here. He’s going to do whatever it takes to help his team win.
“And tonight was a pretty good display of being able to catch and shoot open shots. And defensively I thought he did a really good job, too. Anytime you can score 142 points and Luka doesn’t have to play in the fourth, that’s pretty good.”
Holiday was impressed with the way the Mavericks’ superstars got everybody else involved.
“I knew there were going to be open shots,” Holiday said. “This team is so good those open shots can go to anybody. But if I get the looks, I’m pretty comfortable.
“Those two (Luka and Kyrie) will generate a lot of open shots and they’re willing passers. Whether it’s myself or anyone else. The beautiful thing is I’m OK with it not being me. And these guys are OK with it not being them. That’s the way if you play as a team, it’s hard for teams to beat that when you have that camaraderie.”
And, of course, it’s still great to have Luka doing his thing. By halftime, Dončić had 21 points, six rebounds and five assists. It was the 11th time this season he’s had 20-5-5 in a half. The next three players behind him have a total of 10 (Nikola Jokic five, Steph Curry three and LaMelo Ball two).
Said Dončić of the outrageous shooting night the Mavericks had: “I think they’re really good looks. And Justin is a really good fit with us, too. He had a big game today. He’s a great player. But we had open shots and we’ll take them all day.”
They won’t always go in. But getting those open looks is a lot better than not generating them.
The Mavericks, 32-29, had endured a three-game losing streak before the All-Star break and while that wasn’t fun, it was like a week in Acapulco compared to the Spurs’ 14-game losing streak, which now is at 15.
So something had to give on Thursday and the Mavericks did what they had to do and took care of business. Even if that business started about 20 minutes late.
With something making the floor slick, the players were sent back to the locker room with about 2 minutes left before the national anthem was to be played.
Workers pushed towel-covered brooms around all the court and the players finally came out and warmed up again. At 7:58, the jump ball happened and the Mavericks skipped ahead, never trailing after the early going.
They were up 74-63 at halftime and it tied their first-half high for points this season. It was the fifth time they have had 70 or more in a half and they now have had 74 in a half twice since Irving joined the team.
The Mavericks have precious little time to get their sea legs under them.
The All-Star break happened so late in the season – three-fourths of the way through it – that the clock is ticking on getting Irving and Dončić operating as a well-oiled unit.
It’s also a time to get Maxi Kleber back after missing the last 2½ months with a hamstring injury that required surgery. Coach Jason Kidd said that Kleber had a strong practice day Wednesday and the hope is he can have another one on Friday. So it sounds like his return is nearing.
In addition, Davis Bertans (left calf strain) is hoping to return soon.
And, clearly, Holiday is going to be in the mix.
“For us, this is a time to get to know one another and get some of those guys back healthy and into the rotation” Kidd said. “And then we got to build that rotation going into the last 15 games.
“Those guys in the locker room want to know when they’re playing. There’s going to be an opportunity to play a nine-man or 10-man rotation, but the rest of those guys who aren’t playing have to be ready due to foul trouble or injury. It’s about being unselfish right now.”
Thursday night was a solid start.
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