The Mavericks went 5-5 from December 12th until New Years Eve. The last game Luka Doncic played in before getting injured and then having to go into COVID health and safety protocol was on December 10th, he then returned in the first game of the new year. The Mavericks have also been hammered with players getting injured and more than half the team in COVID health and safety protocol. They’ve had to sign a handful of players such as Theo Pinson and Marquese Chriss to a 10-day contract via hardship exception just so they would have enough players to continue playing. The Mavericks were the 8th seed without Doncic and with half the regular roster players out, some players have shown that they can step up and take over the team when their All-Star team leader is out.
Kristaps Porzingis played in eight of the 10 games from December 12th until New Years Eve. In the eight games that Porzingis played in, he averaged 22.8 points per game (PPG), 8.6 rebounds per game (RPG), 3.0 assists per game (APG), and 2.3 blocks per game (BPG). In all of his eight games played in this time span he has scored in the double-digits. Porzingis recorded a season-high 34 points on December 27th against the Portland Trailblazers. In that same game he recorded five assists, nine rebounds, two blocks, and two steals. His game against the Blazers also resulted in his highest game score of the season, 32.9. Porzingis took over as the leader while the team was hit hard with all the health and safety protocols and he showed why his nickname is the Unicorn.
Jalen Brunson also stepped up in the point guard position when Doncic went out with an injury. Brunson averaged 21.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 7.4 apg, and 0.8 steals per game (SPG). In all 10 games from December 12th to New Years Eve, he also scored in the double-digits. This season in general Brunson has stepped up his game, averaging 3.4 more points than last season, but especially in the time when the team needed players to step up, he showed that he can perform when he is needed most.
But with the success some individual players have been having, the team has still been struggling in some aspects. In all five of their losses, they lost by single digits. Two of those losses came in a one-possession game. One of those one-possession losses came in an overtime loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. The Mavericks have been able to lead for most of their games, however when it comes to the fourth quarter and crunch time they always seem to fall flat at the end. As their lead starts chipping away, sometimes the Mavericks start forcing shots up that won’t go in and the opposing team gets the ball off of that and it adds to their momentum instead. In order to continue to succeed, especially in these tough times with half the team out, the Mavericks have to learn to keep the momentum going their way in the final quarter and especially in the final minutes of a game.
The Mavericks five wins during that time span on the other hand came in double-digits. In those games they were able to keep the lead throughout and work as a team to blow out some of their opponents. Consistency was one of the other issues, if the Mavericks could work together consistently and keep the energy up the whole game then that would lead to them winning some close games that they would sometimes let slip out of their hands. Due to the time that the league is in, with so many players getting COVID and players coming in on 10-day contracts to help a team, it is much harder right now to build team chemistry and consistency. Some of the 10-day contract players won’t be on the team for a long amount of time, especially when the main roster players return and take their minutes back, so one of the Mavericks weaknesses was harder to fix, due to the full team not being together.
Since New Year’s Eve, the Mavericks have been on a tear, winning five in a row. Doncic returned to playing when the new year came around. He’s played in three out of the five recent Mavericks wins. In those three games Doncic averaged 20.3 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 11.0 APG, and 2.3 SPG. In that five game time span the Mavericks ranked 19th in offensive rating with 111.8, first in defensive rating with 94.8, and first in net rating with 17.0. The Mavericks have been able to turn one of their biggest weaknesses from the past, defense, into one of their biggest strengths. In that five game win streak they were able to keep the Golden State Warriors, who were first in the West at that time, to 82 points and it was on Dirk Nowitzki’s jersey retirement night. Now, the the Mavericks have added a win against the team with the best record in the East as well, the Chicago Bulls.
Even with all the COVID health and safety protocols, the Mavericks have been able to keep their heads above the water during this time. If they can continue to have a next man up mentality and each player steps up when needed, the team as a whole can continue to succeed and have playoff potential. However, the team also needs to learn to not expend too much energy and to not force shots when the lead seems to be getting too close for their comfort. Having as much energy as possible in crunch time and keeping calm along with building team chemistry with the newer players will lead the Mavericks to success.
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