Dallas Mavericks 121, Oklahoma City Thunder 114
Stat Leaders: Points: 38, Dončić; Assists: 10, Dinwiddie; Rebounds: 11, Dončić
Surprising Stat: Luka Dončić tied Dirk Nowitzki with 37 career 35-point double-doubles.
Dallas Mavericks 90, Cleveland Cavaliers 105
Stat Leaders: Points: 30, Dončić; Assists: 7, Dinwiddie; Rebounds: 7, Wood
Dallas Mavericks 130, Portland Trail Blazers 110
Stat Leaders: Points: 33, Dončić; Assists: 9, Dončić; Rebounds: 12, Wood
Surprising Stat: Christian Wood scored 32 points – a season-high.
Dallas Mavericks 99, Cleveland Cavaliers 100
Stat Leaders: Points: 32, Walker; Assists: 7, Walker; Rebounds: 14, Wood
Surprising Stat: In a game where Dallas was missing five players, all of Dallas’ starters exceeded 40 minutes played.
MVP of the Week: Christian Wood
At this point, Christian Wood is coming off the bench only so he can remain in the running for the Sixth Man of the Year award.
Wood played his best week as a Maverick thus far, averaging 24 points and 9.5 rebounds in four games this week. He once again showed himself to be a dominant interior presence, averaging 23 points and 10.5 rebounds in two games against the vaunted Cavaliers frontcourt. He can score at will, and his defensive improvements aren’t going unnoticed.
“I think on the defensive end he was really, really paying attention today,” Dončić said after the win against the Trail Blazers.” “He’s big down there, so he helps us a lot.”
Surprise of the Week: Kemba Walker Returns
Last week, I called Kemba Walker a band-aid to cover up a bullet wound.
If his performance against the Cavaliers was any indication, he’s one good band-aid.
Walker, in his first start as a Maverick, scored 32 points and dished out seven assists on 48% shooting, and more importantly, 75% shooting inside the three-point line. For a moment, Walker looked like his old self, snaking around screens to set up teammates and crossing over opponents to rise into pull-up jumpers.
In a game where Dallas was missing five players and three starters, Walker was the reason the Mavericks remained competitive.
We should not expect Walker to return to his previous all-star form, despite what this game indicated. Remember, he dropped a 40-burger with the Knicks just last season, which was the worst of his career.
This game did show us, however, that Walker still has some gas in the tank.
Walker exhibited traits that the Mavericks have been searching for all season. He is still a high-level ballhandler and a strong distributor, and his ability to attack closeouts to either get a shot in the paint or kick out to a shooter will allow Dallas to mimic the offense it runs with Dončić or give Dončić another weapon.
Ideally, Walker can play the role that many expected Facundo Campazzo to play. If he can productively and efficiently run the offense for 15-to-20 minutes a game, his signing would look genius.
Even if he’s just a band-aid.
Stock Up: Reggie Bullock
Reggie Bullock’s favorite time of year has arrived.
Like clockwork, Bullock has rediscovered his three-point shot. Bullock averaged nine points and shot 54% from three-point range in four games (and one start) this week.
Bullock’s December shooting revival is one of the strangest statistical anomalies in NBA history. Before December, Bullock was averaging just 27.3% shooting from three-point range. Since the turn of the month: 46.4%. And this tracks for almost every season in his career.
Maybe it’s just his holiday spirit.
Stock Down: Luka Dončić
Dončić has been nothing short of spectacular this season. If the team were not 14-14, he would assuredly be the MVP front-runner, and he remains a top-three candidate.
But it’s time for some criticism.
In the first frustrating loss to the Cavaliers, Dončić simply showed bad leadership. He played with tunnel vision all night long, simply focusing on getting his shots up. When they missed, he rarely hustled back up the court to play transition defense and instead chose to argue with the referees. He even refused to high-five his teammates out of frustration, despite it just being the first quarter.
For a team trying to work through adversity, this was far from an idyllic leadership moment.
Dončić is justified in his frustrations. He is playing the best year of his professional career and is on an incredibly disappointing team. His team only seems to win when he is at the top of his game, and his coach and front office have failed to maximize the talent that exists on the roster.
Dončić is accustomed to success. He was a winner his entire European career and has only had an upward trajectory in his time with the Mavericks. It’s clear this team is going through a prolonged period of adversity.
Dončić is also just 23 years old. It’s easy to forget that when he’s been playing like a veteran since his rookie season, but he is still too young to legally rent a car from most car rental services.
Dončić’s game is practically flawless, but his leadership skills still need time to develop.
Dec. 19 @ Minnesota Timberwolves
Dec. 21 @ Minnesota Timberwolves
Dec. 23 @ Houston Rockets
Dec. 25 vs Los Angeles Lakers