PORTLAND, Ore. – Kristaps Porzingis is like most elite athletes and tends to be hard on himself when he doesn’t produce like he expects.
That was the case after he shot 4-of-17 in his return Tuesday from a 10-game absence because of right knee soreness. He was 1-of-8 on 3-pointers.
The 7-3 Porzingis took the blame for the 110-107 loss to the LA Clippers. It wasn’t all on his shoulders, of course. The Mavericks had plenty of problems throughout a tough game, especially at the defensive end and with their lack of rebounding.
But Porzingis fell on the sword.
“It just sucks that we weren’t able to get a win,” Porzingis said. “If I played just a little bit better, we would have won the game. This loss is on me. That’s how I feel. I just have to play better for my team, for my guys, for my coaches.
“And I know it’s my first game back and all that, but I always have high expectations for myself. I’m just disappointed I wasn’t able to shoot the ball better.”
Porzingis’ past performances suggest that any time he needs to get back into a groove will be short. At the beginning of this season, he had missed more than 20 months after a major knee injury.
In his first nine games back, he averaged 20.1 points and shot 38.5 percent from 3-point range.
That’s what coach Rick Carlisle is basing his belief on that Porzingis won’t take long to be back in high gear.
“Activity was real good,” he said. “He’s an aggressive player. He changed some shots, blocked a couple and his rhythm will come back quickly. Considering the amount of time he was out, he got into a rhythm pretty quickly at the beginning of the year. He’ll be good (sooner than later), I don’t have any doubt about that.
“But it’s great to see him back out there competing without apprehension, that’s a big thing.”
Clearly, with Dwight Powell’s ruptured right Achilles sidelining him for the rest of the season, the Mavericks will have to change some things with the way they use their personnel.
With Porzingis, who can play either power forward or center, they have some leeway on what they want to do. Maxi Kleber also can slide into either spot.
They have not played Porzingis at center a lot offensively, but that could change. In the second half against the Clippers, Carlisle used J.J. Barea with the starters.
“We’ve done it some,” Carlisle said of using Porzingis at center. “We felt that we needed a little more playmaking right off the bat (against the Clippers). J.J. and Luka (Doncic) have had good stretches and they had another one tonight, which was great to see.
“The bind you get in is with rebounding and that was obvious in the second half. We were really up against it on the boards. You take a little bit here and give a little bit there. We just got to find a sweet spot with the guys we have and find a balance. But in terms of the lineup and everything else, there’s a lot of things we got to keep on the table. So we’ll see.”