Without being cavalier about it, after the Dallas Mavericks’ 127-106 lopsided victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena, forward Tim Hardaway Jr. explained just how smoothly their ship runs when Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis are on the court.
“We’re happy when those two are out there,” Hardaway said. “We know we have a better chance of winning ballgames and we just got to make sure they stay healthy and locked in.”
Doncic and Porzingis were definitely locked in and ready to do some damage while making the Thunder look like they were taking a long walk on a short plank.
After missing Friday’s loss to Indiana with lower back tightness and sitting out Saturday’s loss to New Orleans with a non-COVID-19 related illness, Doncic returned and produced game highs of 25 points and seven assists in only 28 minutes as the Mavs snapped their two-game losing streak. And Porzingis tallied 20 points, grabbed nine rebounds and handed out a career-high tying five assists in just 27 minutes after sitting out the game against New Orleans with a right knee injury recovery issue.
Meanwhile, the Mavs’ offense looked crisp in racking up 30 assists on their 51 field goals and piling up a whopping 71 points in the first half. And in leading 33-24 after the first quarter, that snapped an awful trend where the Mavs trailed after a quarter in the previous 10 games.
“We didn’t play particularly well in the second quarter, but overall I thought it was a lot of very good offensive stuff,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “You’re talking 127 points in an NBA game, you’re moving it pretty good.
“And 30 assists! That’s a damn good number.”
Another good number was the sizzling 53.1 percent the Mavs shot from the field, along with the 16 three-pointers they converted on 44 attempts. Speaking of the Mavs’ spectacular ball movement, a stoic Porzingis said:
“We have moments where we do it and then we don’t. It happens like that. Guys are trying to do their best and play for the team. We want to try to keep it moving as much as we can.
“Sometimes, even when you do move the ball you get a great look, open look, and it doesn’t go in. It’s OK. We just want to try to focus on that and try to play our best basketball.”
Still, after leading by as many as 14 points in the first quarter thanks to 12 points from Porzingis, bravado wasn’t the name of the game coming from the Mavs after they allowed an unthinkable 39 points in the second quarter and only led, 71-63, at intermission.
“The first half was a bit disjointed,” Carlisle said. “Our first quarter was OK. The second quarter was not very good. The second half I thought we played to our capabilities against a team that’s undermanned, but very well coached, still skilled, hard-playing. We were able to take care of business.”
Hardaway, who certainly knows how to make an entrance while coming off the bench, did his part. The savvy veteran scored 19 points in just 21 workmanlike minutes, and added:
“I don’t think we did a great job in the first half. We gave them too many easy opportunities, too many looks at the rim and they were playing downhill the whole first half. So we just wanted to come out of halftime, buckle down, and the coaches challenged us, and it shouldn’t be that way. “
Aleksaj Pokusevski led OKC with 21 points and six rebounds, Svi Mykhailuk scored 16 points and former Mav Isaiah Roby finished with 12 points, nine rebounds, two blocks and three steals.
Newcomer Nicolo Melli took advantage of his opportunity in the second half. Acquired last Friday in a trade with New Orleans, Melli scored a late jumper that helped the Mavs enter the fourth quarter with a commanding 100-83 lead, then opened the fourth quarter with two consecutive baskets.
Meanwhile, Josh Green hammered home a dunk via a feed from Doncic, and followed that up with another hoop to lift the Mavs to a massive 112-85 lead with 8:49 remaining in the game.
“It felt good,” Melli said. “I’m happy to be on this team. I like the group. I was glad to have the opportunity to play.”
Porzingis, meanwhile, also collected two blocks and recorded a steal as the Mavs improved to 24-21 entering Wednesday’s game in Boston. He also was named the Defensive Player of the Game by Carlisle for his performance against Moses Brown, who scored a career-high 21 points and grabbed a franchise record 23 rebounds during Saturday’s game against Boston.
“Brown had 19 rebounds in the first half of the last game against Boston and I think he only had five in the first half (on Monday) and nine for the game,” Carlisle said. “KP also did a great job around the rim. I thought his reads on offense were terrific, he mixed in long range shot-making with cuts and drives, and defensively he was a force in there and he was a ball movement maker tonight too, which is really important to our team. Hats off to him – terrific performance – and we’re going to need more of the same here coming up on this trip. To me the other player of the game was Dorian Finney-Smith — +32 in 27 minutes.”
For his part, Porzingis commended his teammates and also said: “I just played my game again. I got involved early, I got some good looks and knocked them down and played within the rhythm of the game, and my teammates found me. Overall, our performance as a team was decent, but we know there are a lot of things that we could have done better tonight. And we’re going to focus on that and grow from this game.”