Luka Dončić and Tim Hardaway Jr. took turns playing like superheroes Saturday night in Canada, helping the Mavericks overcome what has been a Kryptonite to them for many years.
They got their first win of the season – and the first of the Jason Kidd coaching era – with a 103-95 thumping of the Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Arena.
It also ended a streak of six consecutive road losses against the Raptors. The Mavericks had not won in Toronto since Nov. 28, 2014. And, they avoided an 0-2 start for the second season in a row.
Instead, the Mavericks head into Tuesday’s home opener against Houston with a 1-1 record after their two-game trip.
It was a redemption sort of night for Hardaway, who helped open the Mavericks’ offensive floodgates with a banked-in 3-pointer in the third quarter that sparked him to 25 points on 7-of-11 shooting from beyond the arc.
Redemption? Yes, certainly, considering that Hardaway was 1-of-23 from the field (1-of-14 from 3-point range) in the two meetings last season with Toronto.
The law of averages worked in his favor this time.
And it flushed away any remnants of the blowout loss Thursday at Atlanta.
“It shows growth in our group,” Hardaway said. “Coach Kidd said before the game great teams don’t lose two in a row. They find a way to win, especially in hard situations. So we just wanted to make sure we finished strong. We didn’t want to question ourselves after the game if we did enough to pull off a victory.”
No questions needed.
After falling behind by 14 points early, the Mavericks took charge in the third quarter, when Dončić and Hardaway combined for 21 points, the same total the Raptors had as a team. The Mavericks had a 12-0 surge in the third when they went ahead for good at 69-62.
They were never headed after that. The Mavericks shot 52.3 percent in the second half, when they outscored the Raptors 58-44.
Dončić? All he did was pile up 27 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds.
“Our defense wasn’t the best in the first half,” Dončić said. “It wasn’t that good. But in the second half, we stuck together and picked it up. Not like the first game. And from defense we go to offense.”
Dončić also put in some face time with his lifelong buddy, Goran Dragic, who planted roots in the NBA a dozen years ago and was idolized by his young, fellow Slovenian.
“He’s my guy,” Dončić said. “It’s always amazing to see him.”
Meanwhile, Hardaway was having a quiet start to the season until he broke loose in the third quarter. He said he wasn’t thinking about his clunkers last season against the Raptors.
“We weren’t playing in their building, so it was a different story,” he said with a grin.
“Most importantly, just making sure I picked my spots. Luka’s running the show. Him and KP (Kristaps Porzingis) are great in that two-man game. So I’m just playing off those guys and reading the situation. But also, shooting the ball with confidence. I missed three, four or five in the first half, but shooters shoot.”
And makers make. The Mavericks were very sharp offensively after a sluggish first quarter.
“We got off to a very, very slow start, but I thought mentally we stayed in the game,” Kidd said. “Timmy got us going on the offensive end. I think the bank opened up the basket and then everybody started knocking down open shots.”
The Raptors may have run out of some gas, too. They were coming off a 115-83 win at Boston on Friday night. After their quick start, the Raptors faded as the Mavericks had more and more energy as the game went along.
And it added up to an exact opposite second half from the one they trotted out in Atlanta.
“It’s chemistry and accountability,” Kidd said. “Character and trust in one another. You don’t lose the game in the first three minutes or six minutes. We were tested in Atlanta and didn’t respond well. And I thought the guys responded well tonight on the road. It’s hard to win in this league.”