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5 takeaways following the Maverick pre-season loss to the Pistons, 124-117

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NBA: Preseason-Dallas Mavericks at Detroit Pistons Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks fell to the Detroit Pistons Wednesday evening, 124-117. The Pistons turned in a balanced effort, led by Luke Kennard’s 19 points off the bench. Luka Doncic turned in a very familiar line of 21 points, eight rebounds, and five assists.

The game opened with what we’ve all been waiting for since February! Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis on the floor together at the same time! And boy did it not disappoint. The Mavericks came out running and gunning with Doncic and Porzingis as the first two Dallas players on the scoreboard. As to be expected in preseason, there were turnovers and miscommunication on both ends of the floor, but over all Dallas looked much more like the NBA team we’d hoped for compared to last night against the Thunder. The Pistons kept things close but Dallas led after one, 28-26.

The second frame had glimpses of the best version of these Mavericks. Led by a hot shooting Tim Hardaway Jr., Dallas got to the rim early in the quarter and pushed after breaks. Dallas broke the two point lead wide open with a 14-1 run. Doncic re-entered the half with around four minutes left and scored a few more baskets to offset a late push by the Pistons. Dallas took a 59-50 lead into intermission.

Dallas opened the second half with six straight: a Porzingis pick and pop resulting in a cross over pull up, a Porzingis put back off a Kleber miss, and a Doncic hanging drive which resulted in a Detroit timeout. The Pistons clawed their way back from a 15 point deficit over the rest of the quarter, resulting in a number of Rick Carlisle timeouts due to defensive lapses from Dallas. Detroit kept coming, with Doncic and Bruce Brown going at one another for most of the frame. The Pistons kept the pressure on and rallied back to tie the game at 86 just before the quarter’s end.

Detroit scored seven straight in the first 66 seconds of the final frame. The lead grew to double digits in the first six minutes as the Mavericks could not buy a bucket. A lot of bad fouls from Detroit gave the Mavericks a ton of free throws, which cut the lead in half where it stayed for several minutes. But the bench unit Dallas line up couldn’t get enough stops to make the game uncomfortable. Detroit pulled away late and Dallas fell 124-117.

Now, some things:

Porzingis! Porzingis! Porzingis!

There’s so many things to talk about: KP’s magnificent high release shot, his ability to put the ball on the floor, I could keep going. Instead, I want to highlight one area I plan to watch very closely this season: his rebounding. He’s just a career 7.1 rebound per game guy and with how rebound challenged the Mavericks appear on paper, watching him grab seven rebounds in just 19 minutes was a relief. I’m not smart enough to know how many he ought to average, but if he posts a career year on the glass, it will be an underrated part of the Maverick success.

Bench watching

In my mind I’ve envisioned Seth Curry as the sixth man for this team. So that he was the third guy off the bench raised my eye. Obviously it doesn’t mean anything, but this team requires dead eye shooting to keep the lane open for Doncic and to a lesser extent, Porzingis.

It was outstanding to see Tim Hardaway Jr. connect early and often during that second quarter bench run but it’s worth asking if that’s a thing that can be replicated (hopefully yes, by getting him an easy basket at the rim before he starts pulling up from three, but that’s a worry for another day). That said, I’d prefer Curry get more burn over the long haul.

Luka Doncic and the free throw line

The reigning Rookie of the Year hit just 71% of his free throws last season and entering his sophomore campaign it’ll be one of the areas Maverick fans can hope for some significant improvement. Against the Pistons, Doncic took 10 free throws, which is great! But he only hit five, which is clearly terrible.

Three point defense

Folks, it’s not good! The Thunder hit 14-28 against Dallas last night. Detroit hit 18-45 from range and the distance shooting was a key reason the Pistons rallied in this contest. As Bobby Karalla wrote for Mavs.com, the three point defense last season was surprisingly good. If Dallas wants to win games this season, they’ll have to do better than allowing the 44% from three they’ve allowed so far.

That was fun! This is fun! Did you have fun?

It’s just pre-season and if you read my recap last night you were probably tired of my crap by the end. Not my finest performance, just like those Mavericks. But what we got tonight was what we were promised. More of that, please.

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. Now, presenting MMB After Dark