At the new Fiserv Forum on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the Mavericks gave the start to Jalen Brunson in what might be the last game without Dennis Smith, Jr. for the foreseeable future. Brunson rose to the challenge, coming out firing in the first quarter and keeping Dallas in the game as Luka Doncic and Harrison Barnes struggled from the field. After a big second-quarter surge led by team defense, three-point shooting, and Wesley Matthews, Dallas fought back to take a 59-57 lead into halftime.
After falling behind again in the third quarter and weathering the ejection of a stunned Dwight Powell when Dallas seemed unable to buy a foul call, the Mavericks fought back hard to within six points with under five minutes to go in the game, only to have comeback hopes snuffed out in three successive plays with about three minutes to go. First, Giannis got free for an absolutely monstrous dunk over Doncic. Second, Harrison Barnes wasn’t able to knock in a wide-open corner three freed up by Doncic. The final nail in the coffin was a phantom call against Doncic when Eric Bledsoe missed a fast break layup with just over two minutes to go. Dallas never got closer than six again, eventually falling 116-106.
Luke Doncic notched his first NBA triple double
After a rough third quarter for the team, midway through the fourth quarter Luka Doncic became the second-youngest player in NBA history, and the youngest Maverick by a wide margin, to record his first triple-double—this was his 45th NBA game. For comparison, Jason Kidd was the previous Maverick with the most triple doubles, notching 14 in his Mavericks career. 13 of those came in his first stint, with the first not coming until his 69th game. Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki took more than 600 games to earn the first of his two triple doubles, in February of 2008, also against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Luka Doncic has not only incredible vision, but elite passing touch
No less than three times was Luka able to zip passes through a maze of defenders and cutter from one side of the court to the opposite corner. While many players are able to hit the correct corner on drives, what puts Doncic’s passing ability in the company of players like James Harden and LeBron James is his ability to get the ball there right in the shooting pocket of the recipient. Combined with his ability to use every conceivable angle (and some previously inconceivable ones) to get the ball to a rolling big man, Doncic is already one of the best passers, period, in the NBA.
The Mavs had a clear plan for holding Giannis Antetokounmpo in check: take a charge
At one point or another, it seemed as if every player in Mavericks blue stepped in front of Giannis and took one in the chest from one of the league’s leading MVP candidates. Devin Harris, Doncic, Brunson, and even DeAndre Jordan stepped in to take charges on a driving Giannis—to varying degrees of success. Giannis finished the game with 31 points, 15 boards, 5 assists, and a victory at home. With the lack of success in this gameplan, perhaps Dallas will add some other elements when they face off for the final time this season on February 8th.
Next up are the Los Angeles Clippers
Be on the lookout for Mavs Moneyball’s preview as Dallas heads home to take on the LA Clippers tomorrow, with likely return of both Dennis Smith, Jr. and some expected minutes from Dirk Nowitzki on this second leg of a back-to-back.