Here’s our five takeaways from Friday night’s 106-102 New York victory over the Mavericks, which dropped their record to 2-3 at American Airlines Center and 5-3 overall.
About that last shot: Luka Doncic was trying to make something happen and, in hindsight, he knows it wasn’t the best choice. His 35-foot heave with 18 seconds left hit hard off the back iron. He had one foot on the center-court logo. The Mavericks could have done any number of things on that possession, when they were down 105-102. A quick 2-pointer. A drive-and-kick for a 3-pointer. But it’s tough to be critical of Doncic’s shot because he’s made it before. “The ball’s going to be in his hands,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “And I trust him to be able to create something either for himself or somebody else. It was a long shot, but it was a clean shot. It was on line, hit the back of the rim.” Doncic said he felt like it was a bad decision to let that shot fly. But if it had gone in, it would have been a different story. “That would have been crazy,” Kristaps Porzingis said. “Tough loss, but he’s playing like he could be in the MVP conversation right now. He’s playing incredible. I want him to keep going, keep doing his thing. Those are the type of shots we know he can make. Maybe in that situation, that shot was going to be available a little later also. He could have got to a better spot. But sometimes, players like that, you just got to let him do his thing. Next time, maybe he takes that same crazy shot and it goes in and everything explodes.”
Slow start costly: The Mavericks gave up 36 points to the Knicks in the first quarter. This is a Knicks team that came in 29th in the NBA in offensive efficiency. Down by eight points after a quarter made the rest of the night drudgery. “The first quarter was the part of the game that we didn’t recover from,” Carlisle said. “We ended up losing the first quarter by eight. It was not the right way to start this game off. It turned into a scramble at the end. We had a shot. But an accumulation of little things throughout the game hurt us and we didn’t shoot the ball well.” The Mavericks have had a tendency to start halves poorly. That must change quickly.
Local product does good: Why does Julius Randle always seem to play great when he’s at American Airlines Center? When he was with the Lakers and the Pelicans, he always seemed to torment the Mavericks. Same thing in this game, his first against Dallas with the Knicks. Randle finished with 21 points and nine rebounds. He’s been slowly growing into a all-star level player. Now he’s in a situation at age 25 where he can be one of the Knicks’ cornerstones.
How about a little help? For the longest time Friday, Doncic and Porzingis were scoring like crazy. And nobody else in a Mavericks’ uniform had more than six points. Tim Hardaway ended up with 14. But the Mavericks’ bench and the starters alongside Porzingis and Doncic didn’t come through in this one. The bench has been terrific, so you can give them a pass in this one. But the Mavericks showed that they need more than just their two stars.
Look what’s coming: Porzingis had a successful night personally against the team that drafted him fourth overall in 2015. But he knows the tough part comes next week. The Mavericks will visit the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Thursday, the capper of a three-game road trip that starts Saturday at Memphis. So what kind of reception does he expect in New York? “I don’t know. Probably a lot of noise,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s going to be positive or negative. But it’s going to be a lot of emotion from the fans, and from me also coming back to New York. It’s going to be interesting. I’m looking forward to the game. I spent four years of my life living there. It’s going to be special.”