Coming out of the All-Star break, I wrote that consistency would be the key for the Dallas Mavericks as they made a push towards a top 4 seed in the Western Conference. More so, this team’s continued trust in one another would hopefully allow them to remain close in their first four games out of the break, as their schedule did them no favors. Four games later, the Mavericks’ have gone 3-1 in that tough four game stretch and their confidence is at a season high after dismantling the Warriors (twice) and the Lakers.
The Mavericks opened up the second half of the season with a loss to the Utah Jazz, a game in which Donovan Mitchell hit a career high 7 three pointers en route to a 114-109 win. Dallas then followed this up with a come from behind victory over the Golden State Warriors, erasing a 21 point deficit to win 107-101. The Mavericks, not letting such an emotional win affect them, came from behind yet again to beat the Lakers and held off the Warriors (again) as they furiously tried to rally to a win. There were three keys to this 3-1 start to the second half of the season that make the Mavericks a dangerous team going forward.
The Dinwiddie Effect
There were opinions of all sorts when the Mavericks traded Kristaps Porzingis to the Washington Wizards for Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans. Those who hated the deal mentioned the money both players are making, along with their injury history and inconsistent play for the Wizards. While Porzingis still remains out indefinitely for the Wizards, Bertans, and especially Dinwiddie, are proving the doubters wrong. Since joining the Mavericks, Dinwiddie is averaging 14.5 ppg on a career high 58.6% from the field and 45.5% from 3 (both career highs). But Dinwiddie’s effect on the Mavericks goes far beyond his numbers. Jason Kidd has begun using three guard lineups late in games, with Dinwiddie generally flanking Jalen Brunson and Luka Dončić.
“We’ve got a special situation where we have no another guy who can dribble and make decisions and score the ball. So it’s not just heavily on (Jalen) and Luka. Now Spencer is in the game. I can play all three of them. That’s the beauty of our depth right now.”Coach Jason Kidd alluded to this after the latest win against the Warriors
Having three ball handlers on the floor has opened up space for the Mavericks to operate. The additional depth takes pressure away from Dončić and Brunson throughout the game. Their late game surges have been in large part to having three efficient scoring guards playing all together. Dinwiddie has been instrumental late in games since the All-Star break, and his fit with Dallas has been a much welcomed surprise to many.
The Porzingis Trade
Without getting too heavy into the Porzingis days, there seems to be a relief amongst the team and the coaching staff now that Porzingis is no longer a Maverick. That’s not to say the Mavericks didn’t enjoy having Porzingis on their team; by all accounts, he was well-liked and enjoyed his new found confidence under Jason Kidd. However, the Mavericks time and time again would have to shift their play style when Porzingis was in the lineup, as his lack of agility and perimeter liabilities hindered their defensive impact. On the offensive end, the same held true. Porzingis wasn’t nearly as effective as a screen and roll man as Dwight Powell is, nor was he quick enough to fly around with Dallas’ new ball movement philosophy. When Porzingis was out of the lineup, the Mavericks would then have to redeploy a new starting 5, one that arguably meshed much better and was more effective, as evidenced by them winning 6 of their last 9 before the All-Star break without KP, including wins against the Heat, Clippers, 76ers and Hawks. Dallas seems to be much comfortable knowing who will be on the floor and that there is continuity in their style of play.
What else is there to say? Dončić was on an absolute tear in February, winning Player of the Month honors after averaging 34.7 ppg, 10.3 rpg and 8.8 apg and leading the Mavericks to a 7-3 record. Dončić has posted nearly identical numbers in the 2 games he’s played in March as well. It seems as if ever since he received no media votes for being an All-Star starter, Luka has taken that to heart and begun to dominate the league. By his own admission, he came into this season out of shape after a summer in which he played in the Olympics and let himself go a little too much. Now that he’s back in shape, there is no doubt he has firmly entrentched himself in the MVP race (though it would take epic collapses by Jokić and Embiid for Luka to move any higher than 3rd). More importantly, he has the Mavericks playing their best basketball of the season at just the right time. Dončić has shown no fear when he needs to take over games, as he did calling to go 1-on-1 with LeBron James in the win against the Lakers. Even more impressive is the trust he has shown in his teammates and allow them to create shots as well.
Dallas is playing their best basketball season of the year, and with one of the easiest remaining schedules in the NBA, are in prime position to move up in the standings and obtain home court advantage in the postseason. Regardless if they do or not, the Mavs seem to have the confidence within the locker room that with the way they’re currently playing, they can beat anyone in the NBA.