Dallas Mavericks 95, Boston Celtics 124
Stat Leaders: Points: 23, Dončić; Assists: 5, Dinwiddie; Rebounds: 12, Wood
Surprising Stat: The 29-point margin of defeat was tied for the largest margin in a Mavericks’ loss this season.
Dallas Mavericks 127, New Orleans Pelicans 117
Stat Leaders: Points: 34, Dončić; Assists: 10, Dončić; Rebounds: 10, Dončić
Surprising Stat: Luka Dončić tallied his 54th career triple-double, and ninth triple-double of the season, in the victory.
Dallas Mavericks 109, Oklahoma City Thunder, 120
Stat Leaders: Points: 27, Wood; Assists: 8, Dinwiddie; Rebounds: 16, Wood
Surprising Stat: Dallas is 0-4 without Luka Dončić.
MVP of the Week: Christian Wood
With each passing week, it is looking more and more necessary to extend Christian Wood.
Wood dominated the Pelicans and the Thunder this week. His 28-point game against the Pelicans showcased his full skillset as he buried four three-pointers and blocked two shots. The chemistry he had with Dončić was on full display, a relationship that he described as working together like “ice cream and fudge.”
Without his partner, however, he still posted a dominating performance against the Thunder, scoring 27 points and grabbing 16 rebounds while making all of his shots within three-point range. He showcased his paint toughness that, while not present against all opponents, can work well against certain matchups.
Wood’s price continues to go up.
Surprise of the Week: The Discourse Surrounding Reggie Bullock
A few weeks ago, I had predicted that Bullock’s offensive upswing would maintain throughout the latter half of the NBA season.
I was wrong.
Bullock scored just 17 points the entire week. Normally, such a poor stretch would send him to the “Stock Down” category, and many Mavericks fans want him sent to free agency.
Bullock has indeed been a poor offensive player as of late. He has been hesitant to shoot and is rarely involved in any other offensive action beyond screening.
Conversely, Bullock’s problems offensively mimic Dončić’s defensive struggles throughout his career. Dončić can be a good defender at times, but when he is forced to carry the offense, mental lapses are more common.
Bullock’s offensive struggles result from the enormous load placed on him defensively. The absences of Dorian Finney-Smith, Josh Green, and Maxi Kleber have left Bullock as the only good perimeter defender on the team, forcing him to pick up the opponent’s best guard or wing every night. As these players return from injury and his defensive load lightens, it would seem reasonable for his shooting percentages to stabilize.
Time will tell if this is the case and Bullock’s defensive contributions have earned him the time, despite the fanbase’s wishes.
Stock Up: Jaden Hardy
It’s a Hardy party.
Hardy is in the midst of the best stretch of his young career. It began in a disappointing loss to Boston, where Hardy’s performance became the Mavericks’ silver lining. His 15-point outburst in just 15 minutes of action showcased the full range of his burgeoning offensive capabilities, as he made all three of his three-point attempts and aggressively drove to the basket.
The coaching staff was convinced by this performance, as the day after the game, the Mavericks released Kemba Walker to give Hardy more minutes and maintain roster flexibility with an open roster spot, according to Landon Thomas.
Hardy repaid this vote of confidence with another 15-point showing in 20 minutes against the New Orleans Pelicans. Unlike his game in Boston, Hardy did most of his damage in the paint, showcasing his improved finishing skills against the Pelicans’ starters.
Dallas needs a tertiary playmaker, and Hardy is having a great audition for the role.
Yet, it is important to contextualize this stretch. While it is true that Hardy’s performances came against opponents’ starters and key rotation players, his two best of his outings came in blowouts, where the pressure is lower and mistakes are more tolerated. His showing against the Thunder, his worst of the week, came in a much closer contest. Furthermore, as players like Josh Green and Dorian Finney-Smith begin to return from injury, it is not likely that Hardy maintains his current playing time.
Still, Hardy’s showings demonstrated he can become a rotational player sooner rather than later.
“[I’m] not being scared of anybody, just hoopin’,” Hardy said after the win against the Pelicans. “I’ve been doing this my whole life.”
Stock Down: Spencer Dinwiddie
Spencer Dinwiddie does a lot of good things for the Mavericks.
But he cannot run the offense.
Whether it is a combination of Dinwiddie’s shortcomings, Jason Kidd’s offensive coaching deficiencies, or simply team construction, Dinwiddie cannot produce even an average offense when Dončić is playing poorly or is absent.
Against Boston, Dinwiddie shot just 40% from the floor and posted a team-worst -23 plus/minus. He put up a forgettable performance against the Pelicans, albeit in a blowout victory. His lackluster showing against the Thunder, however, encapsulated his playmaking deficiencies.
While the stats reflected a solid performance, with Dinwiddie tallying a team-high eight assists, the offense was clunky, with many possessions stretching into the waning seconds of the shot clock and hot-potato passing that led to poor quality shots.
With Dončić out and Dinwiddie guiding the offense, Dallas has posted an abhorrent 105.9 offensive rating, which is 2.4 points per 100 possessions worse than the worst offense in the league this season. With such a poor offense, it is understandable why Dallas is winless without Dončić in the lineup.
Part of this is on the coaching staff for attempting to run Dončić’s offense with Dinwiddie at the helm. Dinwiddie is a different player than Dončić and should command a different offensive gameplan in Dončić’s absence.
Part of this is also recognizing that Dinwiddie is who he is, and he is not a primary playmaker.
Jan. 10 @ Los Angeles Clippers
Jan. 12 @ Los Angeles Lakers
Jan. 14 @ Portland Trail Blazers
Jan. 15 @ Portland Trail Blazers