Well that was something, huh? In the Mavericks final preseason game, they walloped the Los Angeles Clippers 102-87 Thursday night in Vancouver, Canada. The Mavericks treated the game like a dress rehearsal, playing starters and key rotation players throughout the first three quarters. The Clippers were missing some starters key guys, but still had Kawhi Leonard. This was fun!
Dallas started hot and never let up. The Mavs hit the first 11 shots of the game, led 13-1 after the first six minutes and the game was truly over after that. Dallas led 32-12 after the first quarter and LA never really seriously challenged them the rest of the night.
Everyone chipped in — Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis led the way in scoring with 15 and 18 points, respectively and seemingly all of Dallas’ top guys did something to help, whether it was Maxi Kleber’s defense, Tim Hardaway Jr.’s shooting or Jalen Brunson’s scoring.
Let’s get to the three big things we noticed.
Luka and Kristaps are ready
The numbers aren’t eye-popping, as both Doncic and Porzingis were both under 20 points but their fingerprints were all over this game.
Doncic continued his smooth shooting, hitting 4-of-9 from deep. Porzingis had a different approach, not shooting a three until the second half. He was active around the rim, hitting 6-of-9 shots and grabbing 13 rebounds and recording a block. Aside from that block, Porzingis had numerous defensive stands at the rim. He looked great, except for the fact that every time he falls I still have a heart attack.
If there was a blemish to the dynamic duo, it was Doncic’s sloppy passing. He was a little high on a couple lobs, through a pass at Boban Marjanovic’s ankles and just didn’t seem as crisp as he typically is. The nine turnovers are gross, but the game was called pretty strict with offensive fouls and travels.
Despite that, it was a fine tune-up for the Mavericks two young stars. They looked like the best players on the floor and set the tone for the Mavs to take the big early lead. That’s saying something when Kawhi Leonard was also playing.
Offense, offense, offense!
During the off-season, I took a look at how top 10 defenses and top 10 offenses fared in the playoffs. My conclusion? Offense matters more, when it comes to making the playoffs and winning a series. It’s why I wanted the Mavericks to go all-in on offense when building the team around Doncic and Porzingis, at least initially.
So I was very pleased when the Mavericks rolled out their newest preseason starting five of Jalen Brunson, Delon Wright, Doncic, Kleber and Porzingis. Dallas has rotated in a bunch of defensive-minded wings in Justin Jackson, Dorian Finney-Smith and Courtney Lee in the previous games and it was great to see Brunson earn a shot, as he was having an outstanding preseason.
Low and behold, the Mavericks came out guns blazing. The Dallas offense looked wonderful, with Brunson taking advantage of the space provided by Doncic and Porzingis to do some damage. He only scored six points in 15 minutes but also had seven assists, pushing the ball in transition as the Mavericks basically played three points guards at once but without giving up a size disadvantage on the other end. There was a really nice push off the break where Brunson found Kleber for a dunk that just doesn’t happen if the Mavericks have Jackson or Finney-Smith starting.
The theme continued as Hardaway Jr. was the first player off the bench. More offense! I have my qualms with Haradaway, but it’s easier to hide his weaknesses coming off the bench. Dallas played the best 12 minutes of their preseason in this first quarter and it happened with Dallas embracing the offense and not playing their players that can’t shoot. This should be what Dallas should do all season, since there are so many question marks around what this team can produce outside of Doncic and Porzingis. Funny that you play better basketball when you start the game playing more guys that can do the main thing you’re supposed to do in basketball!
Jackson actually had a good game, with 18 points off the bench on 6-of-11 shooting. He’s shot well this preseason, but I just think it makes more sense to start Brunson or Seth Curry in that fifth spot, alongside Dwight Powell when he’s healthy. Dallas should try to blow teams off the floor with offense, instead of trying to split the difference with out-of-depth role players. Play to your strengths, Mavs.
Bottle up preseason Tim Hardaway Jr. please
I want to shout out Hardaway here specifically, because he was great tonight and has had a really solid preseason. He hit 3-of-8 from three tonight and filled in Devin Harris’ spot on the backdoor cut from J.J. Barea with a nice dunk.
Hardaway still shouldn’t start, because I think it’s easier to manage his strengths and weaknesses off the bench — he has more of a green light to fire, he doesn’t have to guard starters and can just kinda do his thing instead of taking possessions or shots away from Doncic or Porzingis to start the game.
Hardaway ends the preseason making 12-of-28 from deep, 42.9 percent. If he can get anywhere close to that for the regular season, it’ll be a huge boon for the Mavericks. Especially so if Dallas does indeed start one of Brunson or Curry, which will leave their bench lacking some pop. It’s just preseason, so who knows if this is for real or just a good streak, but it was still good for Hardaway to show a pulse.
One last thing before you go... we’ll be podcasting right after a good number of games this season. We’ll try to keep it short, but if possible, go to your favorite podcast feed and subscribe to the Mavs Moneyball Podcast. Here’s MMB After Dark