Dallas Mavericks 122, Atlanta Hawks 130
Stat Leaders: Points: 30, Dončić; Assists: 9, Dončić; Rebounds: 9, Wood/Finney-Smith
Surprising Stat: This was the last of Spencer Dinwiddie’s three consecutive games scoring over 20 points.
Dallas Mavericks 115, Miami Heat 90
Stat Leaders: Points: 34, Dončić; Assists: 11, Dončić; Rebounds: 12, Dončić
Surprising Stat: The Mavericks held an opponent to less than 100 points for the first time since December 21st.
Dallas Mavericks 98, Los Angeles Clippers 112
Stat Leaders: Points: 29, Dončić; Assists: 5, Dinwiddie; Rebounds: 10, Dončić
Surprising Stat: Dallas is 2-9 when Dončić scores less than 30 points in a game.
MVP of the Week: Reggie Bullock
Two weeks ago, I predicted Reggie Bullock would round into form as injured players returned to the lineup.
I was right.
After shooting 37.5% from three-point range throughout his usual mythical month of December, Bullock, through ten January games, is shooting an elite 48.1% from deep. Bullock has scored double-digit points in his last four games, and he is showing no signs of slowing down.
Against Atlanta, Bullock made four three-pointers and against Miami, he made five. What was more crucial, however, was his success attacking the basket. Bullock’s driving ability has always been limited, and while his attempts were valiant in the early portions of the season, they were also maddening. Against Atlanta, Bullock shot 75% from inside the three-point line, and also dished two assists in the process.
Bullock averaged 11 points on 56.3% shooting from three-point range this week. As this team begins to return to health, Bullock’s continued shooting surge can go a long way to help this team make a push up the standings.
“We believe that [Reggie] is going to make [shots],” Jason Kidd said in response to Bullock’s career-worst shooting this year. “That’s who he is…he’s a shooter.”
Surprise of the Week: Defensive Showcase against Miami
One of the most disappointing elements of this Mavericks’ season has been the significant decline of the team’s defense. With no significant defensive pieces lost in free agency, and the team bringing in Christian Wood and JaVale McGee, many thought the team would build upon last season’s top-10 defense.
Instead, due to injuries and general defensive regression, Dallas is 23rd in the league in defensive rating and posted the league’s worst defense from January 10 to January 20.
After the Mavericks allowed the Hawks to score 130 points on 57% shooting from the floor, the alarms were being sounded.
“We’re not playing defense,” Jason Kidd bemoaned. “[We] have to keep asking or demanding these guys to play defense.”
Ask and you shall receive.
In the following game, Dallas held Miami to just 90 points and posted a defensive rating of 100.3, their best defensive performance since December 17.
Dallas forced 15 turnovers and held the Heat to 20% shooting from deep. Only Victor Oladipo hit the 20-point mark. Jimmy Butler, Miami’s All-NBA forward, scored just 12 points.
“You could see they were flying around,” Kidd said of his team’s bounce-back defensive performance. “Now we’ve got to hold them to that standard.”
Stock Up: Team Health
This past month of Mavericks’ basketball has been a rollercoaster, with the Mavericks heavily relying on depth pieces to play significant minutes in the wake of a litany of key injuries.
Now, however, the reinforcements have arrived.
Both Josh Green and Dorian Finney-Smith returned from their nearly month-long absences, and their impact was immediately felt.
Green returned to his pre-injury form. He averaged nine points on 42.9% shooting from deep while showcasing his hyper-athleticism and underrated playmaking abilities. Green’s early season surge was not an aberration, and his return to the rotation has been critical on both sides of the ball.
Finney-Smith’s return was equally as relieving. He averaged nine points on 35.7% shooting from deep while showing how critical he is to the Mavericks’ defensive scheme.
Having these two back also alleviates pressure off of players like Dāvis Bertāns, Jaden Hardy, and Frank Ntlikina, who are much better suited for smaller roles.
While Christian Wood will miss at least a week with a fractured thumb, Maxi Kleber, despite earlier speculation that his hamstring tear would be season-ending, hopes to return “before the [All-Star] break.”
It’s good to have the boys back.
Stock Down: Handling Trade Rumors
For the first time in Luka Dončić’s career, it seemed he was taking an active role in team-building when it was reported that Dončić wanted the Mavericks’ to make roster upgrades.
Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban didn’t get the memo.
After the publishing of this report, Cuban pushed back, saying that “Luka has never suggested, asked, demanded or discussed changes to the roster.”
The response did little to assuage concerns from the fanbase.
If Dončić did not request a roster upgrade, there would have been little reason to make a public response. Such denials often extend the length of stories and bring more attention to a report than it would have received otherwise. Plus, the last time Cuban publicly denied a report involved the Bob Voulgaris scandal.
We all remember how that went.
If Dončić did request a roster upgrade, however, this response might be disastrous. Cuban publicly refuting a true report would not only harm his credibility but significantly harm the relationship between the franchise and its star, alongside infuriating a disgruntled fanbase.
Regardless of the truth behind this report, it is clear Dallas needs to make roster changes. Whether those changes involve extending current talent, acquiring new talent, or creating cap space for future talent, it is obvious that this iteration of the Mavericks’ has a ceiling.
Next time, however, it may be important to remember this old adage: least said, soonest mended.
Jan. 24 vs Washington Wizards
Jan. 26 at Phoenix Suns
Jan. 28 at Utah Jazz