As an NBA franchise, you don’t want to lose to the Knicks. The Mavs already lost to the Knicks once, representing half of NY’s wins in a young eleven game season. Losing again would mean a season sweep to one of the worst teams in the league over the past decade plus. As it would come to play out, though, the Dallas Mavericks would be humbled on Thursday night. It wasn’t that it was a must win game in the sense that the season depended on it. With so many back stories and such high emotion, it played out more like a rivalry game than any typical “higher ranked team needs to beat the lower ranked team” type game. While a loss is definitely frustrating for all the reasons mentioned before, plus some, There are some things to think about regarding last night that should make them better later this season.
Dallas started off slow. They were feeding Kristaps early, which was to be expected, but he just didn’t have it going. They would never really get out of that hole either, eventually losing 106-103. Although the Mavs would fight to keep it close, taking the lead at points down the stretch, they just didn’t show anything other than some Luka Doncic magic and the occasional Porzingis stellar play. Not to downgrade Luka, though, as he put up another triple douple in a 33 point -10 rebound -11 assist night. The question going down the stretch was whether or not the Knicks would have a player that would close out the game. As it turns out, they didn’t really need one specific player to step up – with Barret, Morris and Randle all making shots in the last 1:32 – and unfortunately, the Mavs just couldn’t keep up.
This one can sting. Make no doubt, this is a disappointing loss for Mavs fans. Not all things are bad though, I had a few thoughts before wanting to rid this game from my mind completely:
Kristaps Porzingis struggled early, again.
Regardless, though, he stayed aggressive. This has been a trait of his that I’ve admired so far this season. As he’s continuing to work his way back into playing NBA basketball on a nightly basis he has stumbled plenty of times, but I have seen few instances where he allows his slumps to noticeably discourage him. In fact, like he did last night, he will try to focus on some of his other strengths to help him get into the rhythm of the game. Last night, like most nights, it was his defense and rebounding. KP didn’t hit his first field goal until there were 8 minutes left in the first half, but he played stout defense around the rim and was constantly positioning himself for rebounds. He played really well in the 3rd quarter, scoring a quick 5 points off of a nice roll to the basket and a nifty step back three that had to have had made Luka proud. Then there was that put back to end the third quarter. That put back had to have felt good. The anger from all the “KP SUCKS” chants that reigned all night long in Madison Square Garden left the rim shaking in that put back.
I’m not worried about KP. He still had a double-double, and while I know that doesn’t mean too much for a guy his size – he has shown flashes of the unicorn player he once was. He spent almost two years not playing NBA level basketball. He can do things on the floor that no other player can and he has the cast around him to help him be successful. It will take longer than 11 games for him to get there and with the focus and dedication that he has shown so far this season, it is only a matter of time.
Luka cannot get this team there on his own
Like I said before, the guy is special. Watching him try to carry this team to victories, however, is not a winning strategy. At times last night that’s exactly what it looked like Dallas was doing. In addition to Porzingis building himself back into the monster that he will be, the Mavs obviously need at least one other player that isn’t named Luka Doncic on any given night to step up. Last night was a rare night this season that they couldn’t do that. Seth Curry started and played 23 minutes, but got his only 2 points on a put back with 38 seconds left. I do have to note that it was a timely 2 points that tied the game up at that point in time, but even still, Curry cannot be scoring his only 2 points of the night in the last minute of the game. Curry wasn’t the only one who struggled though. Delon Wright looked out of place most of the night. Maxi Kleber and Jalen Brunson combined for a dreadful 3 points – 2 assists – 4 rebounds in 33 minutes between them. Justin Jackson and JJ Barea didn’t even see the floor, which is disappointing in it’s own right as they weren’t even given the chance to give Luka some help. The Dallas bench is full of players that will have nights like this, they just can’t all have this type of nights on the same night like they did last night.
When it came to supporting cast, Dallas lost the game. To find a silver lining though, Boban was impressive. Apart from a couple few silly fouls, he was positioning himself beautifully on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor. He ended with 10 points, 5 rebounds and a behind the head pass that made me catch my breath in only 15 minutes of play. There are obvious limitations to his game, but if he can give 15-20 minutes of basketball like last night – every night – it could give Rick a unique tool in his tool box.
Dallas had an abysmal night shooting the ball
They were 8/36 from deep. Not all the looks were bad, though I would say more of them were bad than good. That’s really all that needs to be said about that, Dallas has to shoot better from beyond the arc.
Is this a rivalry game?
Everyone even remotely tuned into the #NBATwitter world knows that Knicks fans and Mavs fans have seen friendlier days. Anytime there is a blockbuster trade, the emotions between the teams involved always run a little higher than normal. In addition to the game on the court, each team wants to “win the trade” and to add fuel to the fire, when a player leaves a city the way KP left New York it’s inevitable that the first game back would boil over with intensity from the fans. It may just be temporary emotion, but this felt like a rivalry game in the sense that the added emotion would balance the difference in skill levels out. It’s a shame these two teams won’t see each other for the rest of the year.
It’s good to see Dennis play well
I admittedly have a bit of a soft spot for DSJ, so I won’t spend to much time talking about him here. I would just like to say though that it’s great to see him playing well like he did last night. It may just be the whole “revenge game” thing, but watching him break the defense down for multiple alley-oops was bitter sweet. He ended the game with 13 points and 8 assists with multiple high energy plays.
Now to get this game out of my memory, see everyone on Saturday against Toronto.