Dallas Mavericks 121, Minnesota Timberwolves 124
Stat Leaders: Points: 36, Irving; Assists: 6, Dončić; Rebounds: 11, Dončić
Surprising Stat: Irving’s 26-point fourth quarter made him the second Maverick this season with a 20-point quarter.
Dallas Mavericks 109, Los Angeles Clippers 118
Stat Leaders: Points: 37, Dončić; Assists: 9, Dončić.; Rebounds: 10, Powell
Surprising Stat: No starting player, outside of Luka Dončić, scored more than 10 points.
MVP of the Week: All-Star Break
This All-Star Break was desperately needed for the Mavs.
Kyrie Irving had a low back strain. Christian Wood has been battling a non-COVID illness and just recently returned from a thumb fracture. Maxi Kleber is still recovering from his torn hamstring.
Dallas also needs to continue to build a system around the Irving-Dončić duo. Dropping three consecutive games, primarily due to defense, has shown this need well enough. Plus, some late-game mishaps between Dončić and Irving still show they have to learn to play with one another.
This break gives Dallas an excellent window for its players to rest up and its coaches to scheme around the new dynamic duo.
Irving scored 32 points, dished out 15 assists and collected one rebound in his eighth All-Star game. Dončić scored four points, grabbed two rebounds and had five assists in his fourth All-Star game.
Surprise of the Week: Fourth Quarter Kyrie Irving
This week, we got our first sighting of “Fourth Quarter Kai.”
Kyrie Irving was fantastic in the loss to Minnesota. After an atrocious first half, where he only scored four points, Irving scored 26 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter, leading Dallas on a comeback mission that fell just short.
Irving took complete command in the fourth, blitzing Minnesota with a litany of drives and three-pointers that made him virtually unstoppable. Combining his fourth-quarter tenacity with Dončić’s first-quarter blitz will make for an explosive offensive attack.
“[His performance] was insane,” Dončić said of Irving. ” All of the guys were just looking at each other wondering how he does that.”
Stock Up: Christian Wood
Dallas will also take this All-Star Break to figure out the future of Christian Wood. Wood, whose role seems to be in flux, has continued to showcase his offensive ceiling.
Wood, in two games this week, averaged 20.5 points in just 20 minutes per game. He went on two long scoring runs himself, taking advantage of poorer bench defenders and allowing Dallas to stay competitive when Dončić and Irving were off the floor.
While his defense is still and will remain an issue, his offensive skillset keeps him relevant in Dallas.
Whether it is as a starter or a sixth man is yet to be determined.
Stock Down: Defense
The most unsurprising development of the Irving trade has manifested itself.
Dallas cannot play defense.
Dallas checked in as the sixth-worst defense over this two-game stretch. With the team still missing a solid paint defender, opponents have been feasting on Dallas in the paint. Minnesota scored 96 of their 124 points within the three-point line on an absurd 72.2% clip. Denver did much of the same, scoring 96 of their 118 points in the paint on 64.9% shooting on twos.
Dallas has been one of the worst defenses in the league throughout the regular season even prior to the Irving trade and subtracting Dorian Finney-Smith unsurprisingly exacerbated the problem.
Until Kleber returns, Josh Green and Reggie Bullock will have to shoulder the burden of carrying this defense. Even then, it might not be enough.
Feb. 23 vs San Antonio Spurs
Feb. 26 vs Los Angeles Lakers