Finding themselves in yet another sticky situation, the Dallas Mavericks finally were able to taste sweet victory inside the bubble in Orlando.
With Luka Doncic putting up yet another monster game and Dorian Finney-Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr. coming up big, the Mavs rallied from 11 points down to grind out a much needed 114-110 win over the Sacramento Kings in overtime on Tuesday afternoon at HP Field House. The victory was the first in three tries for the Mavs since the NBA restarted the 2019-20 season, and also was their first win since blowing out the Denver Nuggets, 113-97, on March 11 in the last game before the league was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Nothing came easy in this game at all,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “It was a struggle, and everybody kept everybody together, and we just kept saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to find a way.’
“Everybody just kept hanging in. Really a well-deserved win for our guys. I’m really happy for them.”
Oddly enough, the Mavs didn’t rely on their high-powered offensive attack to snap their season-high tying two-game losing streak. For a change, it was their much-maligned defense that took center stage and enabled the Mavs to leave the arena with a smile on their face.
“I believe we had seven stops in a row to end regulation, which was huge,” Carlisle said. “It was a gutsy win.
“Their collective will to win the game was as strong as I’ve seen all year. We’ve had a lot of good wins, but this was really special, because we were up against it the whole night.”
The Kings (28-39) bludgeoned the Mavs’ defense by firing in 9-of-16 shots from 3-point range and taking a 37-27 lead after the first quarter. But the Mavs got in some rapid-fire punches of their own as they held Sacramento to just 7-of-27 from downtown over the final three quarters and overtime.
“Since we’ve been here I’ve been working on my defense, just getting better,” Doncic said. “It wasn’t our best game – far from that.
“We fought, we hung in there, we helped each other, we never gave up. We needed that win and you can never count us out for sure.”
Tuesday’s game was Exhibit A as to the monumental challenge it is for defenses when they try to contain Doncic.
Against the Kings, the second-year point guard registered his NBA-leading 16th triple-double as he finished with 34 points, a career-high 20 rebounds and 12 assists. That’s the first stat line of 30 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar racked up those numbers in 1976.
In addition, Doncic joins Sam Perkins and Dirk Nowitzki as the only members of the Mavs to post a 30-point, 20-rebound game. Also, only 12 players in NBA history have recorded a 30-point, 20-rebound, 10-assist stat line, and Doncic and Denver’s Nikola Jokic are the only ones to do it this season.
Want more? Doncic becomes the youngest player ever with a 30-point, 20-rebound, 10-assist stat line as he collected those gigantic numbers when he was 21 years and 158 old. Oscar Robertson owned the record, doing it when he was 23 years and 12 days old.
It was a bucket by Doncic that put the Mavs ahead for good at 104-102 with 1:58 left. From there, Maxi Kleber delivered the biggest shot of the game with a 3-pointer which increased Dallas’ lead to 107-102 at the 1:21 mark.
“Maxi had a couple of easy looks early in the game that didn’t go,” Carlisle said. “But he stayed in the process and he knocked in that huge three in the overtime.”
Hardaway and Finney-Smith also came up big for the Mavs. After going 1-for-12 from the field and scoring just two points in Sunday’s game against Phoenix, Hardaway was 6-of-14 from the field and tallied 22 points against the Kings. That included a 3-point field goal that gave Dallas a 98-97 lead to start overtime, and three free throws to knot the game at 102 a short time later.
“I just know that the last game I laid a goose egg and I know I’m better than that as a player,” Hardaway said. “So I just wanted to come out here a little more aggressive and not do too much, but play the way I’m supposed to be playing.”
Finney-Smith did a lot of the dirty work while finishing with 16 points and a career-high 16 rebounds, and Kristaps Porzingis contributed 22 points and seven rebounds before fouling out late in regulation play.
“I really liked Tim Hardaway’s patience and discipline tonight,” Carlisle said. “He busted his butt on defense. Offensively, when the shots were there he was stepping into them aggressively.”
The Mavs, who trailed 60-56 at halftime, were coming off a pair of brutal losses. They blew a 14-point lead and lost to Houston, 153-149, in overtime last Friday, and they blew a 15-point lead and lost to Phoenix, 117-115, on Sunday.
On Tuesday, it was the Mavs who were the hunters and they ran down the Kings and will enter Thursday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers with a 41-29 record.
“I just wanted to go out there and do the best I can on both ends of the floor, especially down the stretch with stopping (De’Aaron) Fox and getting rebounds,” Hardaway said. “And then Luka coming on and having a big stop to force overtime, (that was) huge.
“When your star player is doing that out there on the floor and leading by example, it shows a lot and it makes the guys around him play just as hard.”
The Mavs played without starting shooting guard Seth Curry, who is suffering from soreness in his right leg. J.J. Barea started in place of Curry, who the Mavs hope will be ready to play against the Clippers.
“We’re not going to take any risks medically,” Carlisle said. “We’re going to try to get ourselves ready to play in the playoffs, but we do want to win games here. We feel it’s real important to do that.”
Trey Burke sealed the game when he buried two free throws to put the Mavs up by four with 4.4 seconds to go.
“Trey’s been terrific,” Carlisle said. “Down the stretch, those two free throws at end of the game, that basically put the game away.
“Our guys had the confidence to get the ball in his hands, and I’m really impressed with how he’s evolved his game over the last couple of years.”
For Dallas, now it’s on to the Clippers, who the Mavs would face in the first round of the playoffs if the season ended today.
“We had rough luck in the first couple (of games) — this one was a great one,” Carlisle said. “This game was all about staying with it. After two tough losses, to get this one is great.”