Kristaps Porzingis has done a lot of selfless things with the Mavericks.
He has put his personal agenda on the back-burner many times. He has been the lieutenant to the general, Luka Dončić.
But sometimes, it’s nice to know that the man they call a Unicorn can do things that make you understand how he got that nickname.
Against Charlotte Monday night was one of those times, when he piled up 22 points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots.
In the first half.
On the second night of back-to-back games.
Remember, for most of his time with the Mavericks, Porzingis hasn’t even played in both ends of games on consecutive nights.
But here he was, dominating.
Quite a change, for sure. The 7-3 Porzingis said he’s feeling the best physically that he’s felt since that wretched knee injury in 2018.
And what he’s done in two games since Dončić has been out with a lingering sore left ankle has shown that Porzingis still can be a dominant player, a No. 1 player for a team that needs it.
His numbers in the past two games (18 points per game, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks) don’t tell the whole story. That the Mavericks have won both games does tell the important piece of the story.
Coach Jason Kidd said that Porzingis “has been great on the defensive end, great on the help, protecting the rim. And offensively, he let the game come to him. He was great.”
Remember back before the Mavericks first convened for training camp? Tim Hardaway Jr., who has known Porzingis as long as anybody in the NBA had this to say about his former New York Knicks’ teammate:
“Being his teammate the longest of anybody on the roster, I know KP. I know he’s back in Latvia busting his tail right now to get back to where he was before the injury when we were with the Knicks.”
Turns out Hardaway was spot-on. Porzingis has looked fitter and more durable during the first third of the season. He’s missed a few games, but playing both ends of the back-to-back was a strong statement on his conditioning.
And some of the numbers he’s putting up are historic. When he finished with 24 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks against Charlotte, it was the fourth time any Maverick has put those numbers on the board in a single game. Porzingis has done it three times. Dirk Nowitzki did it once.
And one of Porzingis’ blocks was on Miles Bridges, who has been known to posterize some defenders who try to get in his way on rim attacks. Porzingis was well aware of that.
“For a half second, I was in the air (thinking) this could go really bad,” he said. “If I jumped late, it probably would have been (potentially embarrassing). As a shot-blocker, sometimes you’re going to get dunked on, but you have to jump. You’re not going to give up anything easy.”
But as the saying goes, the best ability Porzingis has had lately has been availability. And he said he’s looking forward to keeping it that way.
“It’s weird but I almost feel better on the second game of a back-to-back than when I have to get my body going for the first one,” Porzingis said. “But I felt good. Obviously, some games are physically more taxing. But I felt better.”
And that’s making the Mavericks feel a lot better about playing with, or without, Luka.
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