Here are my 5 takeaways from the Dallas Mavericks’ 111-12 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night at American Airlines Center:
1. LUKA CONTINUES TO IMPRESS: Is there anything this teenager can’t do? One day after winning the Western Conference Rookie of the Month award for his heady play during the months of October and November, Doncic went out and showed exactly why he won this prestigious award. One game after sitting out Sunday’s contest over the LA Clippers with a strained right hip, Doncic poured in a team-high 21 points and also grabbed nine rebounds against the Blazers. And once again he showed that he does indeed have ice water in his veins. After Portland sliced and diced a 19-point deficit all the way down to six points with 1:20 remaining in the game, 21 seconds later Doncic rose up and tossed in a heart-stopping step-back 3-pointer that gave the Mavs a nine-point lead and put the Blazers out of their misery.
2. APPRECIATE WHAT JORDAN DOES: From the Mavs’ perspective, isn’t it nice not having to lose any sleep worrying about what they’re going to get out of the center position? That’s been a constant bugaboo for the Mavs since Tyson Chandler left – for the second time — via free agency in the summer of 2015. That’s the same summer the Mavs went chasing after LA Clippers free agent center DeAndre Jordan. The Mavs caught up with Jordan in time for him to give them a verbal commitment that he was going to sign a free agent contract with Dallas. But Jordan changed his mind and instead returned and continued playing for the Clippers. Fast forward three summers, and now Jordan is finally donning a Mavs uniform. And what he accomplished over the past two games just solidifies why the Mavs desperately wanted him. Jordan grabbed a season-high 23 rebounds Sunday against the Clippers and followed that up with 17 rebounds against the Blazers.
3. BENCH RISING TO THE OCCASION AGAIN: Time after time after time, the Mavs’ bench proved why they’re one of the best – if not THE best – bunch of reserves in the entire NBA. They continue to make key plays, continue to give the starters ample time to rest, and continue to have a major impact on wins and losses. Against the Blazers, Portland stormed back from a 17-point deficit and closed to within 79-71 of the Mavs late in the third quarter. From there, backup center Dwight Powell drained back-to-back 3-pointers, and backup forward Maxi Kleber triumphantly swung around on the rim following a nifty dunk via an offensive rebound. After that, backup forward Dorian Finney-Smith drilled a 3-pointer, and savvy veteran backup guard J. J. Barea scored on a layup to complete a lights-out 13-2 run and give the Mavs a 92-73 lead.
4. HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: Other than feeding off the crowd, being in a familiar environment, being able to sleep in their own bed and eat at their favorite restaurant, along with spending the day in their own home leading up to the game, I’m really not sure why the Mavs have been so successful at home and not so successful on the road. Tuesday’s win was the Mavs’ eighth straight victory at home. That’s the longest such streak since they won nine consecutive home games from Jan. 19-Mar. 4, 2011 during a season when they captured their lone NBA championship. Three of the home wins have come against the LA Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder and two-time defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors – three teams currently seeded second, third and fourth, respectively, in the Western Conference. Two other wins were against Portland – the West’s No. 8 seed — and Boston, who is seeded sixth in the East.
5. SMITH SHOWS HIS TOUGHNESS: By now, you know that LA Clippers guard Patrick Beverley accidently used an elbow to fracture one of Dennis Smith Jr.’s front teeth during Sunday’s game. Smith left that contest, but later returned and recorded a game-saving key block on Tobias Harris. Then on Monday, Dennis paid the dentist a visit and the results ended with him undergoing a root canal. Not to fret. The next day Smith was back in the starting lineup and attacking the basket as if he had something on his mind. In addition to successfully executing a fast break layup in the first quarter, Smith went sky-high while mastering a fast break dunk in the third quarter. And he duplicated that again in the fourth quarter when he collected a long pass from Luka Doncic and completed another one of his patented dunk. Smith finished the game with 12 points and a season-high nine assists.