Dallas Mavericks 122, Indiana Pacers 124
Stat Leaders: Points: 39, Dončić; Assists: 9, Irving; Rebounds: 8, Dončić
Surprising Stat: Dallas is just 17-15 against teams with a losing record this season.
Dallas Mavericks 133, Philadelphia 76ers 126
Stat Leaders: Points: 42, Dončić; Assists: 12, Dončić; Rebounds: 6, Kleber
Surprising Stat: Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving became the first Mavericks’ teammates to each score at least 40 points in a game.
Dallas Mavericks 126, Phoenix Suns 130
Stat Leaders: Points: 34, Dončić; Assists: 7, Irving; Rebounds: 9, Dončić
Surprising Stat: In the five losses when Dončić and Irving have played together, the average margin of defeat has been 3.4 points.
MVP of the Week: Kyrie Irving
Despite a 1-2 week, Irving continued to showcase why Dončić wanted him in Dallas.
Irving averaged 28.7 points and 7.3 assists on 54.2% from the floor and 40% from deep. While he struggled in the loss to the Pacers, he showcased his offensive brilliance against the 76ers and Suns.
Irving was expected to bring scoring to Dallas, but his play as a distributor has unlocked another level to this offense. Since acquiring Irving, Dallas has skyrocketed to third in offensive rating. Furthermore, over the same stretch, Dallas is playing at the 18th-fastest pace in the league, significantly faster than the league’s second-slowest team before his acquisition.
Irving’s future in Dallas will be the story of the offseason, but his current play in Dallas has been nothing short of fantastic.
“It’s unbelievable the things he does on the court,” Dončić said after the win over the 76ers. “I think if I would have to play with somebody it would be him for sure, because those movements and shots are incredible.”
Surprise of the Week: Dončić/Irving Duo Dismantle the 76ers
This is the game we were waiting for since the Irving trade.
Coming off a gruelingly disappointing loss to the Pacers, many Mavericks fans expected to get whooped by the 76ers.
Dončić and Irving had a different plan.
The guard duo put on an absolute show, dropping a combined 82 points en route to a much-needed win over the third-best team in the Eastern Conference.
It was the first time in Mavericks’ history that two teammates each scored at least 40 points. Additionally, it was the first time in NBA history that two teammates each scored at least 40 points and hit at least six three-pointers.
“You know they have to work through the kinks,” Kidd said of the duo. “But I think at the end of the day we’ll be happy with what we have.”
Stock Up: Maxi Kleber
Maxi Kleber is back!
The 6’10 forward played his first games since December 12, when he suffered a hamstring injury most expected would end his season. Kleber, however, defied those odds and returned after a three-month absence.
He looked like he never left.
Kleber stepped right back into the role he previously occupied, playing strong interior defense and knocking down timely three-pointers.
In two games (he missed the Suns game due to injury recovery), he averaged nine points on 63.6% shooting from the floor and 50% from deep. As Kleber continues to return to form, we can expect his overall impact to increase, and he provides a big boost to the team’s big-man depth.
Glad to have you back, Maxi.
Stock Down: Luka Dončić’s Defense
This week, Dončić averaged 38.3 points, 9.3 assists and 7.0 rebounds on 58.3% shooting from the floor and 35.4% from deep.
As always, his offense was not the issue. It was his defense.
Dončić, before the acquisition of Irving, had a reason for his lackluster defense: he was the sole driver of the offense. Dončić had to do everything offensively, and he (along with most players in the NBA) did not have enough energy to carry one side of the ball and play above-average on the other. Additionally, while in years past the Mavericks’ had enough wing defenders to cover up for his slow rotations or poor box-outs, the loss of Dorian Finney-Smith and the health of Kleber have taken that away.
With Irving on the team now, Dončić is not the sole offensive engine. And without defensive wing depth, there is nowhere for Dončić to hide.
Dončić has good defensive moments. He’s strong enough to hang with wings and uses his high basketball IQ to disrupt passing lanes. But he’s often lazy and generally uninterested in playing on-ball defense. The game against Phoenix exposed it.
Dončić was tasked with guarding the corner wing and with being a help defender on drives. At first, the opponent was Josh Okogie. Okogie missed eight wide-open threes, bailing Dončić out of the consequences of his slow closeouts.
When Phoenix replaced Okogie with Ish Wainwright, Dončić’s laziness got exposed. Wainwright shot four-of-five from deep on equally wide-open looks, with Dončić nowhere to be found.
Nobody expects Dončić to become an elite defender, but he needs a mindset shift. He finally has an offensive co-star, but that also means he should now have more energy to play defense.
In the NBA, the margin between a good team and a great team is usually one or two adjustments.
It’s time for Dončić to make that adjustment.
March 7 vs Utah Jazz
March 8 @ New Orleans Pelicans
March 11 @ Memphis Grizzlies