But after T.J. Warren’s 3-pointer fell through the net, creating a large cushion in a game in which neither team could really get anything going offensively, something changed. DeAndre Jordan finished a put-back dunk after Josh Jackson rejected his first offering. Then Jordan bodied Suns rookie sensation Deandre Ayton into a difficult fadeaway miss, and Luka Doncic hit a 3-pointer. Doncic hit another 3-pointer on the next possession, and Dallas took the lead for good. The rest of the second half was more of that same thing: Dallas turned stops into easy buckets the other way. The Mavericks limited the Suns to just 36.6 percent shooting after halftime, forced eight turnovers, and blocked two shots. Harrison Barnes was +18 in the third and fourth quarters alone. The Mavs won those frames by a combined score of 58-44. There were a few stellar efforts on offense, but mostly this felt like a game in which the Mavericks dialed up the energy level on the defensive end and it created promising opportunities heading the other way. By keeping turnovers down, relatively speaking, Dallas was able to move the ball and generate clean shots, which certainly helped. Offense and defense are symbiotic, and one cannot function properly without the other holding up its end of the bargain. The second half tonight was a good illustration of that relationship.
Shades of Pat Mahomes. pic.twitter.com/9SiFaU9qPl
— Bobby Karalla (@bobbykaralla) January 10, 2019
Doncic can make some incredibly difficult passes look almost easy. And while I’m sure everyone would love to keep his degree of difficulty down, this felt like the right night to bust out some of his most daring work. Dallas was searching for a passing pick-me-up after handing out just 12 assists against the Lakers, making tonight’s total — 21 dimes on 30 made shots — a strong response. All the more impressive was that the Mavs did this despite the absence of Dennis Smith Jr., who’s currently third on the team in assists per game. Rather than starting Jalen Brunson, Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle opted to turn to Maxi Kleber, leaving Doncic with potentially a heavy load to carry. Any worries were quickly quieted by Wesley Matthews, who delivered a season-high-tying five assists (his most since opening night against Phoenix, coincidentally), and by Harrison Barnes’ season-high-tying three. Anyway, this was Doncic’s fourth 30-point game of the season, moving him ahead of Marquis Daniels into fourth place on the Mavs’ all-time rookie list. Mark Aguirre is up next with five, and Jamal Mashburn sits in second place with seven. First-place Jay Vincent will be tough to top, as he reached the 30-point plateau 15 times during his rookie season in 1981-82.
MAXI! 😬 pic.twitter.com/pFLmXnImV0
— Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) January 10, 2019
The Mavs (19-22) will head north to Minnesota for a game against the Timberwolves on Friday. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.