The Mavericks want to be a strength-in-numbers team. On Friday night the number is only two.
Luka Dončić and Kristaps Porzingis erupted for a combined 82 points and that’s all the Mavericks needed to dispense with the New Orleans Pelicans and Zion Williamson.
With the dynamic duo leading a record-smashing 3-point shooting night, the Mavericks worked over the Pelicans 143-130 to move their winning streak to four and creep into the shadow of .500 at 13-14.
They’ll try to get back to break-even for the first time since they were 8-8 on Sunday against Portland.
Judging from the winning streak, the Mavericks’ offense has regained its mojo. And while coach Rick Carlisle called the defensive end of the court a “pillow fight,” the epic offensive night was a lot of fun.
Dončić had a sensational evening with a career-best 43 points to go with 12 assists and eight rebounds. Porzingis did a lot of his damage early when the Mavericks needed it to stay with a hot-starting Pelicans’ team and finished with 36 points.
“You could kind of see in the bubble the first glimpse of how we’re capable of playing together, and what we’re capable of doing,” Porzingis said. “Tonight was one of those games where things were clicking for both of us.
“It gives both of us energy and builds momentum for both of us and the team when we get going like that. It just felt easy and natural. Not every game is going to be like that. But I believe we’re on the right path and we’re going to keep working on that chemistry.”
Dončić credited the energy and the way the Mavericks are playing the game these days. It’s a far cry from two weeks ago when the point guard said it looked like the Mavericks were ambivalent about winning and losing.
This is the third time since they’ve been teammates that Porzingis and Dončić went off for 30-plus points in the same game.
And their shooting display was contagious. They combined to hit 13-of-21 3-pointers. The Mavericks as a whole hit 25-of-45 3-pointers, breaking the franchise record for triples in a game.
And, by the way, they also have won five consecutive meetings with the Pelicans.
They had pulled in front in the third quarter, but the Pelicans were hanging around, down just 108-104 early in the fourth.
But a Dončić 3-pointer ignited an 8-0 run that made it an 12-point lead and the Mavericks didn’t waver after that.
“It certainly had to be an exciting game to watch,” Carlisle said. “The shotmaking was phenomenal by both teams. We were able to get a little bit of traction defensively in the fourth, which helped us push the lead up a little.
Luka was phenomenal. KP was phenomenal. Williamson was ridiculous. It’s unbelievable what he can do on a basketball court.
“The ESPN crowd got a real treat tonight in terms of entertainment. but it was a pillow fight on defense.”
It was the middle of three nationally televised games in a row for the Mavericks and the country is catching them at a good time. They’ve averaged a shade over 130 points per game in the winning streak.
It’s not a trade-off Carlisle is willing to make, but he admitted the offensive connection that Luka and KP are developing is enticing. It’s what the Mavericks envisioned when they had the grand plan to put these two together.
“Very definitely,” he said. “They’re both great offensive players, they’re both very unique. They fit together well. Their games compliment one another. And the chemistry tonight was tremendous. It was great stuff to watch.
“We’re sharing the ball better. We’re moving it better. We’re playing a more selfless brand of basketball, which has been great to see.”
And it was, indeed, a riveting show throughout the night.
Rarely have two very large humans gone about a task more differently than Porzingis and Williamson did in the first half.
Williamson hit all 10 of his shots in the first half and every one was either a dunk or a layup. He had 23 points. He would finish with 36 points and hit 14-of-15 shots, missing his only 3-point try of the night.
Porzingis had 18 of his first-half points on six 3-pointers. He also had 23 points at the intermission.
And, of course, Luka was just getting warmed up at that point as he reached 25 points for the 13th consecutive game, tying Dirk Nowitzki’s and Mark Aguirre’s franchise record for most quarter-century games in a row.
It was a lot of fun as the Mavericks moved to 4-1 on their home stand with Portland and Detroit still to go.
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