The Mavericks preseason home opener started out with a relative dud. Dallas struggled to shoot the ball with any consistency, and both teams played sloppy basketball coughing it up with travels and offensive fouls.
The Mavericks appeared to be in trouble when Giannis Antetekounmpo flashed his range by knocking down a few threes and maneuvered to wherever he desired on the court, ultimately pouring in 27 first half points.
But the Mavericks stayed within striking distance after a Boban Marjanovic offensive explosion with eight points in seven first half minutes. And thanks to a Luka Doncic three-point barrage, who scored the 11 straight Maverick points, Milwaukee was only able to take a six point lead into the half.
Dallas never could quite claw their way out of the first half hole in the third period, but Porzingis was able to knock down a few shots, and Marjanovic continued to impress. In the fourth quarter, the Mavericks fought their way within two points on the backs of the third stringers, but missed free throws and failed offensive execution kept Dallas from completing the comeback.
Antetekounmpo finished with 34 points and 11 rebounds leading the Bucks to a 118-111 win over the Mavericks who were paced by Doncic’s 27 points.
Here are some other takeaways from tonight’s action.
Kristaps Porzingis’ home debut was a mixed bag
After months of anticipation, Porzingis finally suited up in his home team threads, and let me tell you, it was not pretty. Porzingis finished the game 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting (2-9 from three) in 24 minutes, and the most frustrating part was that most of his shots were open looks. He made his first non-free throw at the 8:56 mark in the first quarter when he dropped in a three pointer, and didn’t make his second field goal until 2:43 in the third. And even then, he didn’t really make any splash plays until the Bucks’ reserves checked in late in the third quarter.
There’s no reason to overreact. This is only Porzingis’ second game in more than 20 months of basketball. The looks were clean, and that’s the important part. But this was a good dose of medicine to settle down some of the hype. Getting back into a groove with take time, and it’s unfair to expect anything different.
Delon Wright is still trying to find his way
Wright was the Mavericks’ biggest free-agency acquisition, and through three preseason games he’s shot a combined 2-of-9. Wright’s calling card isn’t his scoring prowess. He’s a capable defender and a solid playmaker, but the former Memphis Grizzly missed a few wide open corner threes from terrific passes by Doncic.
Dallas didn’t acquire Wright to be a high volume scorer, but he’s currently slated as the starting two guard, and he’ll have to knock down shots to keep defenses from selling out on the Doncic-Porzingis two-man action.
Jalen Brunson made the most of his minutes
With J.J. Barea returning to action for the first time since he blew his achilles in January, Brunson’s minutes vanished. I’m not sure how much it matters, since it’s preseason and Rick Carlisle is throwing many types of lineups out there, but if tonight is any indication, Brunson needs to play a large role off the bench immediately.
The former second round pick checked in with 3:05 left in the third quarter with the Mavs down 12 and went to work against the Bucks’ reserves. Brunson finished with 12 points and four assists while shooting 5-of-7 from the field and connecting on two of his three triples in only 12 minutes of play. Only Marjanovich’s plus-16 net rating was higher than Brunson’s plus-12. We know Carlisle loves his veterans, and Barea is deeply endeared within the organization, but the second unit is Brunson’s show now.
Doncic’s efficient night
One of Doncic’s biggest flaws last season was his inefficient scoring, but tonight he put those worries behind him en route to 27 on 6-of-13 shooting including 5-of-8 from deep and 10-of-11 from the free throw line. After shooting 50 percent from the line against the Pistons, connecting on 91 percent of his freebies is a huge sigh of relief. And Doncic looked comfortable on the catch-and-shoot, which is something he rarely got to do last season. If Doncic can raise his shooting percentages when the games count (especially his mark from the charity stripe), there’s nothing stopping him from far exceeding his historic rookie season.