After the way the Dallas Mavericks systematically ripped the Charlotte Hornets into pieces on Wednesday night at the Spectrum Center, it’s no wonder smiles were in abundance on the visitor’s bench.
The Dallas offense was flawless and the defense was absolutely magnificent as the Mavs used every tool in the box in hammering their way to a 127-59 triumph over the Hornets. The victory kept the Mavs a perfect 3-0 heading into Friday’s preseason finale in Milwaukee against the defending NBA champion Bucks.
Even on a night when superstar Luka Doncic had an off night shooting the ball, the Mavs were still able to amp up their offense and run the Hornets out of their own building.
“I thought the energy and effort (were great),” coach Jason Kidd said. “They executed the game plan. I just thought the rim battles – not fouling at the rim – was something that we’ve been working on and talking about.”
This game was so lopsided that the Mavs scored more points in the first half (61) than the Hornets scored in the entire game (59). The Mavs, in fact, built a staggering 70-point lead (127-57) late in the game – a number that was just mind-boggling considering Doncic only scored 10 points in 26 minutes.
“I have to be honest, I wasn’t really paying attention to the score,” Kidd said. “It was more or less paying attention to the energy and the effort, and then the execution offensively and defensively. There were guys talking about the score, but I really wanted to hear or see how guys were going to react being up (61-30) at halftime and also being up at the fourth quarter with that younger group to see how they were going to react. And I thought that they all passed the test.
“They didn’t play the score. They played to win and they executed defensively and offensively, so it was nice to see. It’s preseason, so we’ll look at what we can get better at on film. But from the starters to the guys that finished the game, everybody was into it, and again the defensive talk was at an all-time high.”
Obviously locked and loaded at both ends of the floor, during one stretch in the first half the Mavs held the Hornets scoreless for seven minutes and 38 seconds. And during one stretch late in the second quarter and spanning deep into the third quarter, Charlotte went eight minutes and 44 seconds without scoring.
As far as that 70-point lead goes, guard Tim Hardaway Jr. said: “I don’t know what to say. All I can say is it’s just preseason. A lot of people can say none of these games matter, but it does when you have a new coaching staff and when you have guys that aren’t familiar with the play-calling and it’s different from previous seasons.
“It just shows that we’re doing a great job of just holding each other accountable and making sure that when guys are out there on the floor we’re just giving 110 percent and making sure we have each other’s back out there.”
And that includes having the back of Doncic, who was just 4-of-14 from the field, but did impact the game by distributing eight assists and drawing a lot of attention from the Hornets.
“Luka did a great job,” said Hardaway, who led the Mavs with 20 points in 24 minutes. “Even when he wasn’t scoring like we’re accustomed to, but he was doing a great job on the other end of the floor getting deflections, defending, rebounding and getting us guys involved.
“And when that happens, the basketball gods reward you, and that’s when his shot started to fall in the third (quarter) and he started getting wide-open looks and he started to capitalize on them.”
Entering training camp, the Mavs wanted to take some of the scoring burden off Doncic. On Wednesday, they got a glimpse of what that might look like.
“I think one of the big focuses for us has been chemistry, moving the ball, sharing the ball,” center Dwight Powell said. “We have a lot of talented guys who can score in a lot of different ways. And obviously Luka, even if he doesn’t make every single shot, the threat he presents is huge and that creates opportunities for everyone else. He affects the game in so many ways – I think that’s very obvious.
“I think we have a lot of guys from top to bottom on our roster that can do that as well. So nights like tonight when maybe he didn’t make his first couple of shots or whatever it was, he found ways to help us still be better and help us build that lead.”
A three-pointer by Doncic to start the third quarter, back-to-back threes by Dorian Finney-Smith, a dunk by Powell and an alley-oop dunk by Willie Cauley-Stein via a feed from Doncic opened up a 74-30 lead for the Mavs before the Hornets finally scored their first points some seven minutes into the second half.
Meanwhile, Kristaps Porzingis continued his sterling play as he scored 12 of his 17 points in the first quarter, which ended with the Mavs nursing a 24-17 lead. Porzingis played 23 minutes and was 7-of-10 from the field and also contributed nine rebounds and two steals.
“I think this system fits my game better,” Porzingis said. “I’m a player that likes to use the mismatch in the post and then create situations from there.
“We were going away from that the last couple of years, and I still found ways how to try to be effective and do what’s best for the team and what the coaching staff was asking me. But I felt like, yeah, this is a part of my game that I’m not using, and this year we’re unlocking that.”
And that could potentially catapult the Mavs to another level.
“KP’s been great on both sides of the floor,” Kidd said. “I think you can see the excitement – the joy of playing.”
Jalen Brunson (13 points), Sterling Brown (12 points) and Moses Brown (10 points) also spread a little joy during their time on the floor against the Hornets.
The lights went out briefly late in the first quarter, but it was the Mavs who provided a lot of electricity. Meanwhile, the Hornets converted just 27.4 percent of their field goals and just 15.8 percent – 3 of 19 – of their three-point attempts.
“We worked on some zone tonight and I thought they executed it well,” Kidd said. “I thought they paid attention to detail.”