PORTLAND, Ore. – Here’s our five takeaways from the Mavericks’ 133-125 win over Portland Thursday night.
Road killers: The Mavericks now are 15-5 on the road. That’s better than everybody in the NBA other than the Bucks and Lakers. It doesn’t make up for their average home record (13-11), but it’s still impressive that they know how to win on the road. Eventually, this is a trait that will help them. Said Luka Doncic: “It’s just us against everybody. I wish we could play like this at home, too. But we got a lot of things to learn and we’re going to play at some point like this at home.” The Mavericks will have to be even better on the road in the next two games as the three-game road trip continues at Utah and Oklahoma City. But beating the Blazers was an excellent start.
The unsung hero: Dorian Finney-Smith had 11 points and 10 rebounds. It was his second double-double of the season and the Mavericks have won both of those games. With Dwight Powell out for the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon, Finney-Smith will be an even more important asset for the Mavericks, particularly with his rebounding. He also is charged with guarding the toughest wing player every night. The best thing about Finney-Smith is he doesn’t have to have the ball in his hands a lot to be effective. That’s why he’s effective in a starting lineup loaded with offensive threats.
Luka’s magic: The Mavericks know they are lucky to have Luka Doncic. He will be starting in next month’s All-Star Game and he is routinely putting up crazy statistics, like his 27 points, 9 assists and 6 rebounds against the Blazers. And while the announcement of him being an All-Star starter caused a distraction to the team, they did not let it impact the way they played. “He attracts a lot of attention all the time,” Carlisle said. “This was going on a month into last season. But I love the way he handles it. He’s interested in his teammates. He’s interested in winning. He continues to learn on the floor. He’s learned a lot about running a team and making decisions about play calls and things like that. These are all important steps to continuing to develop into the great player that he’s going to continue to be and will even improve on.”
In praise of Dame: When he gets rolling, there aren’t many better scorers in the NBA than Damian Lillard. And he definitely got rolling against the Mavericks with 47 points, 31 of them in the second half when he tried to will the Blazers back into the game. Coach Rick Carlisle tried to have a little fun with the narrative after the victory. “Before the game, I tried to pass a note down to their locker room to tell Lillard he had my all-star vote,” Carlisle said. “Obviously, he didn’t get the note. But he had my vote before he went for 47 against us. What an amazing player. He’s virtually impossible to stop. He’s got an iron will and he’s obviously a great leader. When he’s on the floor, they’re hard to beat, no matter what.”
Pass it, shoot it: The Mavericks had 27 assists, including five by Justin Jackson, who makes his living offensively on floaters and 3-pointers. That’s a good sign. The Mavericks shot it very well from 3-point range (22-of-47, 46.8 percent). And they got good ball movement throughout the game. Yes, they shot well, which always helps the assist total. But they also got to the free-throw line 24 times (to 15 for Portland) and that sort of aggressiveness usually gets rewarded.