Here are my 5 takeaways from the Dallas Mavericks’ 122-119 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night at American Airlines Center:
1. DIRK IS BACK: Did you see the excitement etched on the faces of the folks at American Airlines Center when the Big Daddy Tall Baller From The G entered the game in the first half? It was as if everyone had another gift under the Christmas tree they forgot to unwrap. You call that respect. As long as Dirk Nowitzki dons a Mavs uniform this will be his team. And that’s the way it should be. Nowitzki gave the fans a dose of what they wanted. He drained a 3-pointer, scored seven points, blocked a couple of shots, had a nifty assist and even got angry enough to pick up a technical foul in 12 minutes of action.
2. KLEBER IS A HANDYMAN: You know that handy man that lives up the street that can do a little bit of everything around the house? That’s Maxi Kleber. Because the Pelicans have a bunch of tall rugged players manning the front line – a.k.a. Anthony David and Julius Randle — the Mavs gave Kleber his first start of the season to help stem the tide. The results: The second-year player from the same hometown in Germany that produced the Big Daddy Tall Baller From The G tallied 10 points and grabbed three rebounds. More importantly, Kleber blocked a career-high six shots.
3. NOT IN MY HOUSE: Apparently, the Mavs took on a ‘not in my house’ mentality when they took on the Pelicans. And they literally took that slogan to heart. Yes, the Pelicans scored 52 points in the paint. But they could have scored more if not for the aggressive play of the Mavs. In all, the Mavs collected a season-high 13 blocked shots. That’s extremely significant considering during a game last week against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Mavs failed to block any shots. Maxi Kleber had a career-high six blocks, Dirk Nowitzki blocked a season-high two shots, and Dorian Finney-Smith also blocked a pair of shots.
4. LUKA’S STAR CONTINUES TO RISE: Ok, those “MVP, MVP, MVP” chants the fans serenaded Luka Doncic with late in the game may be a bit premature. But a few years from now when Doncic is actually a legitimate MVP candidate – and it’s going to happen – you’ll be reminiscing back to his rookie days when he walked through the hallowed NBA doors and acted like he’d already been here for years. Against the Pelicans, Doncic was just one rebound shy of collecting his first NBA triple-double as he finished the game with 21 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists. And he had a season-low tying one turnover.
5. REBOUNDING GAME UP TO PAR: Coach Rick Carlisle has been preaching almost daily about the need for his team to rebound the basketball at a more proficient rate. Well, that happened Wednesday night as the Mavs outrebounded the very active and very athletic Pelicans, 46-39. Leading the way for the Mavs was DeAndre Jordan, who picked up 12 rebounds while also producing 10 or more rebounds for the 29th time this season. In addition, Luka Doncic grabbed nine boards. And even guard J. J. Barea came off the bench and used his fiery disposition to collect five rebounds.