Here are my 5 takeaways from the Dallas Mavericks’ 101-76 win over the Orlando Magic on Monday night at American Airlines Center:
1. BRUNSON, STEAL OF THE DRAFT: Jalen Brunson is the perfect example of why the NBA Draft is an inexact science. How else can you explain why the National College Player of the Year winner Jalen Brunson wasn’t drafted until the second round last June? Hello, NBA General Managers! Are you guys asleep at the wheel? Brunson was not only the best player in college basketball, he led Villanova to their second national title in three years. How is he not drafted on the first round? Anyway, against the Magic on Monday, Brunson started in place of the injured Dennis Smith Jr. and responded with a career-high 17 points on 7-of-9 shots. Coupled with steering the Mavs to secure Luka Doncic, if Mavs GM Donnie Nelson doesn’t win the NBA Executive of the Year award this year, the award really should be abandoned. Especially considering the Mavs also acquired DeAndre Jordan over the summer.
2. STARTERS GOT SOME REST: The Monday blowout over the Magic enabled the Mavs’ starters to get some well-deserved rest, especially with the schedule about to get a little rough. Wesley Matthews and Luka Doncic sat out the final 15:03 of the game, DeAndre Jordan was on the bench for the final 13:24, and Harrison Barnes sat the entire fourth quarter. The other starter, rookie Jalen Brunson, played eight minutes and 12 seconds of the fourth quarter, mainly so the Mavs wouldn’t have to tax 34-year old J. J. Barea and 35-year old Devin Harris. And with the Mavs’ regular starting point guard, Dennis Smith Jr., out the past three games with an aggravated sprained right wrist, that afforded more playing time for Brunson, who has an effective old man’s basketball game. Also, starting with Wednesday’s home game against Atlanta, the Mavs will play 14 games in the ensuing 25 days that will encompass 11 cities and four time zones.
3. NICE BOUND-BACK GAME FOR POWELL: Dwight Powell will be the first to tell you that he didn’t have a very good game on Saturday against the Houston Rockets. Powell finished that contest with only two points and three rebounds in 16 minutes. That’s the fewest amount of points Powell has scored in a game this season when he’s played at least 15 minutes. But on Monday, Powell redeemed himself nicely. In 21 workmanlike minutes, the five-year veteran was 7-of-12 from the field, scored 16 points and grabbed three rebounds. It’s the second-highest scoring game for Powell out of the last 20 games he’s played, topped only by the 17 points he tallied on Nov. 30 against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Mavs need Powell so they can give starting center DeAndre Jordan some ample rest. He also has a different motor than Jordan. At any rate, it’s a quality change of pace that a lot of teams don’t have from their backup center.
4. KIDD-LIKE GAME FROM LUKA: Back in the day, when Jason Kidd was roaming the court for the Mavs, before I would pick up the postgame stat sheet, I would re-hash in my mind how Kidd totally dominated the game on that particular night. And in my mind, before seeing the stat sheet, I just knew Kidd finished the game with 18 points, 15 rebounds and 12 assists. But to my amazement, Kidd only had a pedestrian-like seven points, 11 rebounds, nine assist game — although he was dominant when putting up numbers in games of that fashion. Well, guess what? Luka Doncic had one of those Kidd-like dominant performances on Monday against the Magic. So what if the rookie missed nine of his 11 field goal attempts. He finished the night with seven points and career highs in rebounds (1) and assists (nine). Also, don’t forget the hops he did after his assist on the DeAndre Jordan dunk. And guess who was in the house to witness it all? Jason Kidd.
5. HOME DOMINANCE CONTINUES: With the win over Orlando, the Mavs have won 10 consecutive games at home. The last time they won double-digit home games in a row was from Dec. 29, 2007-Feb. 29, 2008 when they won 12 straight home games. To put this in better perspective, the Mavs were only 9-32 at home last season. So, from Nov. 6 through Monday, the Mavs won more home games (10) during that span than they won in all of last season (nine). Overall, the Mavs are an impressive 12-2 at home. During the 2016-17 season the Mavs finished the year 12-29 at home. After 14 home games last year the Mavs were only 4-10 at home, and after 14 home games during the 2007-’08 season the Mavs were 12-2. The only team with a better home winning percentage than the Mavs are the Philadelphia 76ers, who are 14-1 at home for a gaudy 93.3 winning percentage. The Mavs’ 12-2 home record gives them a winning percentage of 85.7 percent.