Dallas Mavericks 106, Minnesota Timberwolves 116
Stat Leaders: Points: 20, Dinwiddie; Assists: 7, Dinwiddie, Dončić; Rebounds: 13, Wood
Surprising Stat: Luka Dončić’s third-quarter ejection snapped his 36-game streak of scoring at least 20 points.
Dallas Mavericks 104, Minnesota Timberwolves 99
Stat Leaders: Points: 25, Dončić; Assists: 10, Dončić; Rebounds: 9, Dončić
Surprising Stat: Reggie Bullock scored eight points, improving the Mavericks’ record to 40-17 when Bullock scores more than five points.
Dallas Mavericks 112, Houston Rockets 106
Stat Leaders: Points: 50, Dončić; Assists: 10, Dončić; Rebounds: 8, Dončić
Surprising Stat: Dončić became the second player in Mavericks’ history to have multiple 50-point games.
Dallas Mavericks 124, Los Angeles Lakers 115
Stat Leaders: Points: 32, Dončić; Assists: 9, Dončić; Rebounds: 9, Dončić
Surprising Stat: Christian Wood joined became the fourth player to tally at least 30 points, five rebounds, and five assists in a Christmas Day debut.
MVP of the Week: Luka Dončić
Dončić’s MVP tear continues.
He started the week poorly, scoring just 19 points on 29% shooting before being ejected for arguing with the refs in the first game against Minnesota. He played well in the second outing, with a 25-point near triple-double, but still not up to his superstar standards.
Then, Houston happened.
In a game where the Mavericks struggled mightily, Dončić willed his team to victory. He scored 50 points, including 17 in the fourth quarter. With no other teammate scoring more than 11 points, Dončić shot 57% from the floor and 50% from three-point range, doing enough to help the Mavericks earn an expected but desperately needed win.
His hot touch carried into the Christmas Day game against the Lakers. Dončić, after not taking a shot until five minutes left in the first quarter, finished with 32 points. Dončić was hesitant early as the Lakers were quick and forceful with their double-teams. His supporting casts’ hot shooting in the second half, however, reduced the number of double teams he faced and allowed him to pick apart his defenders in single coverage.
If the Mavericks can maintain these winning ways, Dončić might force his way back to the top of the MVP conversation.
Surprise of the Week: The Third Quarter Against the Lakers
In a tale told many times this season, the Mavericks were struggling to score against an inferior opponent missing its best player. The Mavs shot under 40% from the floor and just 22.7% from three-point range, scoring 43 points and trailing by 11 going into the break.
At halftime, somebody must have put a magnet in the basketball.
Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 16 points in the third quarter, chipping in four threes in the process. Dončić scored 13 in the period, and Wood chipped in nine. Overall, the team shot 72% from the floor and 69.2% from three-point range.
The Mavericks tied a franchise record, scoring 51 points in the quarter. The 30-point scoring differential was the also largest in Mavericks history for a quarter.
No significant halftime adjustments were made – the team just made the open shots they missed in the first half. And don’t just take that from me.
“I don’t think it was adjustments,” Dončić said. “I think we didn’t make shots in the first half.”
It was one of the best quarters in Mavericks’ history, but more importantly, it was the quarter that earned the Mavericks the victory. The third quarter showed that the Western Conference Finals team that we saw last year occasionally comes out of hiding.
Now, it’s on the coaching staff to routinely coax it out.
Stock Up: Jason Kidd
Jason Kidd has deservedly received a lot of criticism this season.
So it is time to give the Mavericks’ head coach some credit.
The Mavericks have been demolished by injuries over the last two weeks. Josh Green has missed nine straight games with an elbow injury. Maxi Kleber tore his hamstring, likely ending his season. Dorian Finney-Smith sustained a right hip abductor strain in the first game against Minnesota, costing him the rest of the week. Kemba Walker missed two games this week with a knee injury. Reggie Bullock missed the second half of the Rockets game with a neck strain.
At one point against the Lakers, the Mavericks deployed a lineup of Dončić, McKinley Wright IV, Theo Pinson, Dāvis Bertāns, and Dwight Powell.
That lineup would make the COVID-19 replacements blush.
Despite this, the Mavericks went 3-1 on the week. Some of this can be attributed to Dončić’s greatness, some of this can be attributed to this week’s weaker schedule and some of this should absolutely be attributed to Kidd. He has made solid lineup decisions with limited options – Bertāns has rediscovered his shooting stroke and the Mavs might have something in Wright IV.
Kidd is making it work despite the injuries. Plus, he has finally moved Christian Wood into the starting lineup.
Let’s hope he can keep it going as reinforcements return.
Stock Down: JaVale McGee
As just noted, this team is missing four key rotational players.
McGee still can’t crack the lineup.
Since McGee was moved to the bench on November 9th, he has had more games with zero minutes played (11) than games with at least ten minutes played (four).
Part of this is because of the improved play of Dwight Powell and Christian Wood. In Powell’s 20 starts after McGee’s benching, he averaged 5.4 points and 3.5 rebounds in 16 minutes per game. In Christian Wood’s six starts during that same period, he averaged 18.2 points on 50% shooting, nine rebounds, and 2.4 blocks. Both have absolutely earned their minutes.
Still, this is disappointing. McGee was brought in to be a paint protector, and while the front office likely did not expect him to keep his starting role, they certainly expected him to be a key role player. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have given him a now questionable three-year, $18 million contract this offseason.
If McGee cannot get minutes now, it is very unlikely to expect him to get minutes in the future.
Dec. 27 vs New York Knicks
Dec. 29 vs Houston Rockets
Dec. 31 @ San Antonio Spurs