The Mavericks took a four-game winning streak south to visit the Houston Rockets. It was an afternoon battle featuring two of the best offenses in the league, and two of the best one-on-one playmakers in the league in James Harden and Luka Doncic.
It marked the start of a tough scheduling week, facing a large jump in competition from last week’s homestand. Dallas and Houston both sit at the top of the league for three point attempts, and percentage of shot attempts from three. There was plenty of that, and often this game felt like it was a dead sprint.
The Mavericks came out aggressive from the tip, starting momentum from the defensive end and continuing their solid shooting from three. The solid play from recent-starter Tim Hardaway Jr. (31 points) continued, leading to a 78-60 Mavericks lead at half. The Mavericks put up the fourth highest half-scoring total in team history with that mark.
Most impressively though is how, after letting the Rockets back into the game late in the third quarter and early in the fourth, the Mavericks didn’t back away from Houston’s aggressive play. They asserted themselves on both ends, got out in transition, and hit big shots. Also, Luka Doncic happened. The Mavericks get a major win on the road 137-123.
Porzingis effort, Luka Magic
There are still long bouts of knocking off rust for Kristaps Porzingis, especially on his jump shot. But you have to hand it to Porzingis, who has continued to ramp up his effort level, especially on the glass. Though he was kept off the boards more in the second half, KP added 13 rebounds, three assists, two steals, and one block to his 23 points. Porzingis adds to his double double collection, and is finding secondary ways to be a major contributor.
As for Luka Doncic, there are often not enough words. Even in a game where he had some mental lapses and trouble finishing around the rim to start, Doncic still was remarkable for stretches. Especially when it mattered most. Posting 41 points, 10 assists, and six rebounds, he’s hit a level of play where off-days still are impactful. Yes, he missed nine threes and had six turnovers. But his vision and ability to get to his spots on the offensive end matter night in and night out.
The three-point story
It is well known that both teams like to chuck. And it shouldn’t be surprising that the team that won shot better all day. The Mavericks (a solid 17-of-44 for 39 percent) had six different players hit a three today. The Rockets, led by James Harden going 2-of-15 from deep, shot a very gross 10-of-44 from behind the arc (a rough 22 percent).
James Harden still had a game, going for 32 points. But the Mavericks were aggressive in pushing their trap well behind the three point line, forcing guys like Ben McLemore to shoot from the corner (McLemore went 0-of-6 from three).
The entire roster has been in a nice rhythm over the last week. Whether it’s just a hot streak or players settling into roles, there’s a great chemistry with most rotations on the floor. The Mavericks bench outscored Houston’s 28-9. In a matchup of offensive firepower, that becomes vital.
That support extended to the starters as well, with Dorian Finney-Smith posting a 12 point 10 rebound double-double (also shooting 40 percent from three, while guarding Harden for long stretches). But none was more important than the contribution from Tim Hardaway Jr. today. Posting 31 points, four rebounds and five assists, while shooting 5-of-11 from three, Hardaway is locked in right now.
The Mavericks have been searching for a consistent third option this year to support Doncic and Porzingis. While career stats may indicate that Hardaway might be playing beyond himself in the last three games, the fact is his play has been vital. And even if it doesn’t last long term, Rick Carlisle needs to ride this out for the time being.
Here’s the postgame podcast, Mavs Moneyball After Dark. If you can’t see the embed below “More from Mavs Moneyball”, click here. And if you haven’t yet, subscribe by searching “Mavs Moneyball podcast” into your favorite podcast app.