Armed with the dicey situation of having six new players and no time to practice or have a gameday shootaround, it’s amazing what the Dallas Mavericks were able to accomplish against the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night at Moda Center.
Not only did the Mavs put on a robust offensive performance in upending the Blazers, 132-117. But to tack on a season-high 38 assists in 48 baskets in the process showed that practice or no practice, something magical was clicking for the Mavs on a snowy night in the Pacific Northwest.
“I think it goes to those guys in the locker room,” coach Jason Kidd said. “They’re listening to what the coaching staff is talking about on both sides of the ball and they’re executing and they’re trying to do the things that we ask them to do.”
Indeed, it’s plausible to believe that whatever Kidd is telling his players in the short time that they have face-to-face conversations, it worked to near-perfection against Portland. In racing out to a 72-53 lead at intermission – it was Dallas’ highest scoring first half of the season – the Mavs let the Blazers know this was not going to be an easy night.
“Tonight it all came together,” Kristaps Porzingis said. “The offense was great, the thing was moving unbelievable. Everybody played great.”
Porzingis scored a season-high 34 points, Dwight Powell poured in s season-high 22 points and Brandon Knight proved that he deserves a spot back in the NBA as he finished with 18 points and five assists.
In improving to 16-17 heading into Wednesday’s game in Sacramento, the Mavs broke the game open with a dominating 21-3 run that moved the score from 41-41 to 62-44 on a layup by Powell with 3:23 remaining in the second quarter. From there, the lead mushroomed to as high as 29 points in the second half as the Mavs cruised to the winner’s circle.
“I think this is a carryover from the Christmas (day 120-116 loss in Utah) when you look at sharing the ball, making the shots and then defending,” Kidd said. “Even though we gave up 117 points, I thought our defense was pretty good tonight.”
With Jalen Brunson scoring 14 points and handing eight nine assists, and Dorian Finney-Smith collecting 14 points, nine rebounds and five assists, the Mavs had their way in dismantling the Blazers. And with second-year guard Josh Green doing a terrific impersonation of Luka Doncic and Kidd while delivering a bushel of spectacular passes, the Mavs were able to even their record on this five-game road trip at 1-1.
After missing four games while in the health and safety protocols, Green returned and played 26 minutes and finished with nine points, two steals and a career-high 10 assists. Not to be redundant, but if anyone was open, Green found them time and time and time again with some of the most awe-inspiring and sweetest passes anyone has dispensed this season.
Green said he was “just feeling the game and seeing what our team needs. We have KP, one of the best shooters in the NBA. And we have Dwight – a great roller. So I think I was just finding them and just doing what I can do and trying to get to the right spots, and just stuff I’ve been doing since I was a little kid.”
Green fed Finney-Smith for a three-pointer and followed that up with a nifty bunce pass on a fastbreak which Knight completed for a layup and a 94-68 Mavs lead with 5:18 remaining in the third quarter. The Mavs went on to lead, 106-84, going into the fourth quarter.
Dallas played without Tim Hardaway Jr., Reggie Bullock, Maxi Kleber, Trey Burke, JaQuori McLaughlin and Doncic, who all missed Monday’s game due to the health and safety protocols. Center Willie Cauley-Stein also sat out his 15th straight game due to personal reasons.
Also, Blazers coach Chauncey Billups sat out the game because of the health and safety protocols, and assistant coach Scott Brooks was his replacement Monday.
In the first half, the Mavs shot 56.5 percent from the field (27-of-47) and converted nine of their 21 baskets from 3-point range. They also outscored the Blazers in the paint in the opening half, 34-8, and had 23 assists on their 27 first-half buckets.
“I think even in our losses you can see this team is different,” Kidd said. “The ball moves, we’re competing, we’re playing for one another. It’s not my turn, your turn. And that’s just what a team does when you’ve got guys who are hungry to get back into the league.
“This is a group that, as I said before the game, they talk. I know that sounds funny to bring up, but if you listen to that locker room early in the year it was very quiet.”
Even with a revamped roster comprised of six players on a 10-day contract under the COVID-related hardship allowance, the Mavs were very loud as they shot 57.1 percent from the field, 36.4 percent from 3-point range, outrebounded the Blazers by eight and outscored them in the paint by a whopping 68-30 margin. Even Porzingis, who had made just 1-of-14 three-pointers in the previous three games, converted 3-of-7 hoops from downtown.
“I took a little bit more time than I usually do when I’m shooting them,” said Porzingis, who also collected nine rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals. “I got my body right and just let it fly, and that was it.
“I got a little arc on it and it goes in. No over-thinking. I just had that feeling that I’m going to make some shots. Now, consistency is what I’m looking for.”
Powell got off to a blazing start, scoring 11 points to stake the Mavs to a 19-10 lead with 5:58 remaining in the first quarter. With Powell’s quick start coupled with seven points, three assists and two blocks from Porzingis, that helped the Mavs bolt ahead, 34-29, at the conclusion of the first quarter.
And when Green got in the game, he was spraying the ball all over the court with fancy wrap-around passes, timely bounce passes and other laser-like passes that led to easy opportunity baskets.
“It was frustrating being at home and missing out on the games,” Green said. “But I think I just wanted to make sure that I was ready to come back and just help the team as much as I could.
“I just need to keep building off that.”
And in wrapping a bow around this game, Kidd pointed out the significance of the two points rookie guard Carlik Jones scored in the second half.
“Just a class act for what those guys did at the end of the game in the locker room in bringing the game ball in and giving it to Carlik for him scoring his first points in an NBA game,” Kidd said. “That sums up who we have as young men in that locker room.
“The character is extremely high. I know it’s a broken record, but you guys have asked about the character and the morale. It’s high. Yes, we want to win every game, but they cheer for one another and that’s special and that has shown with a lot of guys out of the lineup.”
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