PLANO – The Mavericks were happy to put New York and the circus surrounding Kristaps Porzingis’ first game against the Knicks in the Big Apple in the rear-view mirror.
They returned home in the wee hours Friday after going 1-2 on the trip, including a 106-103 loss to the Knicks.
Now, with that game over and done with, the Mavericks have to take care of business at their house – something they haven’t done so far.
They are starting a four-game home stand Saturday against the defending NBA-champion Toronto Raptors, who even without the departed Kawhi Leonard still own a sparkling 8-3 record.
The pressure, as they say, is on.
“We have to,” said guard Jalen Brunson about the need for major improvement on the 2-3 home record the Mavericks have so far. “We have no other choice. We’re going to have to figure out a way.”
After these four games, the 6-5 Mavericks will have played 15 games, closing in on 20 percent of the season. If they can get hot at home and put a little cushion between themselves and the .500 mark, it will set them up for a December when the schedule gets road-heavy.
“It’s going to be tough for us,” said forward Justin Jackson. “It’s going to show us who we are. It’s going to be fun because it’s going to show what type of team we’re going to be and how we fight through adversity.”
There was plenty of adversity on the 1-2 road trip that ended with Porzingis getting roundly booed at Madison Square Garden by the same fans who once cheered him as an all-star for the Knicks.
The simple fact is that scene was a distraction that the Mavericks are glad to be finished with.
“I think it kind of takes everybody out of their own game at times because I think you put a lot more pressure on yourself to try to win that game for KP,” Jackson said. “And I think KP obviously put a bunch of pressure on himself to try to go up there and play well and try to pull out a win against his old team.
“I think those kind of games, it was on national TV, it was a crazy environment, Those games are tough to kind of keep the focus on what the priority is at hand, which is just to win the game. I’m pretty positive that KP is happy to have that over with. And I think I think everybody else is, as well.”
While that outcome wasn’t good for the Mavericks, they now have an opportunity at home to build some momentum. But it won’t be easy. After Toronto, the San Antonio Spurs visit on Monday. The final two games are against Golden State and Cleveland, which in theory should be less stout.
“We’ve kind of come out with some slow starts,” Jackson said of the home record. “So just figuring out ways to get going early and sustain it. We’ve shown glimpses of being a really, really good team. So we have to find ways to sustain that the entire game.
“For me, personally, I love being at home. Having a long string of home games, I think everybody’s looking forward to it. But we got to get some W’s.”