Dallas Mavericks 103, Los Angeles Clippers 101
Stat Leaders: Points: 35, Dončić; Assists: 6, Dinwiddie; Rebounds: 11, Dončić
Surprising Stat: Dončić has now scored at least 30 points in 99 games, the sixth-most before the age of 24.
Dallas Mavericks 92, Houston Rockets 101
Stat Leaders: Points: 28, Hardaway Jr.; Assists: 10, Dinwiddie; Rebounds: 8, Wood
Surprising Stat: Hardaway Jr., off the bench, scored more points than the entire starting lineup (Dinwiddie, Green, Bullock, Finney-Smith, Powell).
Dallas Mavericks 127, Denver Nuggets 99
Stat Leaders: Points: 33, Dončić; Assists: 13, Dončić; Rebounds: 11, Dončić
Surprising Stat: This was only the third non-clutch game (score within five with five minutes left) that the Mavericks played this season.
Dallas Mavericks 97, Denver Nuggets 98
Stat Leaders: Points: 23, Green; Assists: 8, Dončić; Rebounds: 9, Dončić
Surprising Stat: Green’s 23 points were a career-high.
MVP of the Week: Luka Dončić
Like Christian Wood in last week’s edition, Dončić’s weekly MVP status is as earned for his play as it was for how the team looked without him. Dončić continued his MVP-level season, averaging 30 points, eight assists, and roughly ten assists over the three games he played. He made magnificent passes, scored in the lane with ease, and was clutch down the stretch against the Clippers.
What is more telling, however, is how poor the Mavs played in his absence. The loss to Houston was arguably the worst loss this season. The offense looked entirely disjointed, and only Hardaway Jr. and Christian Wood could create their own shots.
Dončić is clearly the MVP front-runner, both based on how well he’s been playing and how horribly the team has played without him.
Stock Up: Christian Wood
The more time Wood spends in a Mavs uniform, the better he looks.
Wood had two monster games this week, scoring 26 against Houston and 28 in the first matchup against Denver. He is looking more comfortable in this offense, and his performance against Houston shows he’s one of the few players on this team who can get a bucket by himself.
“Christian is just trying to play winning basketball,” JaVale McGee said in the post-game interview after the win against Denver. “He’s extremely professional. He works every day. He can score that thing. It’s been really impressive seeing his growth.”
Surprise of the Week: Green and Bertans’ Big Game
Despite another embarrassing loss to a team depleted of its stars (more on that later), Josh Green and Davis Bertans stepped up in a big way in the loss against Denver.
Josh Green played arguably the best game of his career. He scored a career-high 23 points in 30 minutes on 8-of-9 shooting from the floor and 6-of-7 shooting from three-point range. He played confidently and aggressively, driving into the lane to create easy three-pointers for teammates and shooting his threes without hesitation. Green has improved as a shooter, and his lack of hesitation (as well as his accuracy) is a welcome sight to a team that desperately needs more non-Dončić offensive firepower.
Bertans also played fantastic offensively. In just 14 minutes, Bertans scored 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field and 4-of-5 from three-point range. With his offensive detonation came his usual defensive struggles, but if he can turn out more games like this offensively, he can become another key rotational player.
Stock Down: Playing Down to the Competition
We saw the warning signs on opening night against the Phoenix Suns when the Mavericks blew a monster lead. “No big deal,” we thought. “Flukes happen.”
News flash: it was not a fluke.
This Mavericks’ team plays down to its competition. After losing to the Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards without their top players last week, the Mavericks got smoked by the Rockets, the worst team in the NBA, and the Nuggets, who were missing three starters.
Even the most optimistic Mavericks fans wouldn’t dare use the “Dončić didn’t play” nor the “second night of a back-to-back” defenses to justify the putrid performance against the Rockets. The Rockets have the third-worst defensive rating in the league and are strictly focused on developing their very talented young core. So, what do the Mavericks proceed to do with a clear talent advantage?
Allow the Rockets to have their best defensive performance of the season.
The Mavericks scored just 91 points, with 54 coming from Hardaway Jr. and Wood. The Rockets recorded 19 blocks, tied for the most blocks any team has had since 1981. The entire starting lineup combined for just 27 points. The team shot 30% from the field and 22% from three-point range. It was this bad despite the Mavericks having a 20-to-6 turnover advantage. This has to be the worst loss of the year, right?
Well, Sunday night’s loss against the Nuggets is easily in the conversation.
After thumping the Nuggets the game before, it certainly seemed that the Mavericks were going to finish the week 3-1. The Nuggets were missing reigning two-time MVP center Nikola Jokić, all-star guard Jamal Murray, and forward Aaron Gordon from their starting lineup.
As we have learned, nothing is harder for the Mavericks to do than beat a depleted team.
The Mavericks were never able to pull away in this game. Up 97-93 with just two minutes left, the Mavs failed to score again and lost. Dončić did not play his best game, but this team should not and cannot be dependent on Dončić scoring 30+ to win.
These humiliating losses don’t include the blown 25-point lead against the Clippers, with only a miracle Dončić three-pointer allowing the team to escape.
It’s easy to find some culprits here. The Mavericks shot 67% from the free-throw line against the Clippers and 57% from the line in the loss to the Nuggets. The Mavericks desperately need an additional ballhandler. Kidd has made some awful coaching choices (down by one against Denver with four seconds, he decides to draw up a 35-foot Dončić three-point attempt).
The Mavericks are 9-7 right now with the 18th hardest strength-of-schedule. This team could arguably be undefeated, as every loss has come against a shorthanded team or after blowing a massive lead.
None of this matters. This team is 9-7. They need to figure it out.
The season depends on it.
Nov. 23 at Boston
Nov. 26 at Toronto
Nov. 27 at Milwaukee