After watching tonight’s game, it’s fairly easy to see how the Phoenix Suns have improved so much over last season (and the several seasons before that). They came away from the offseason with veteran leadership to add to the young talent they had on the roster, and that veteran leadership has turned the Suns into a tough team that, at the very least, is not fun to play against.
Despite coming away with the 120-113 win, the Dallas Mavericks certainly did not have fun playing basketball tonight. Actually, with the amount of fouls, technical fouls, skirmishes, and bruises that occurred in this one, I am not entirely sure that what happened at Talking Stick Resort Arena this evening could be defined as “basketball” at all.
Here’s what we observed.
The Physical Game
If anything, games like this show that Luke Doncic and the Mavericks are a serious contender to make it into the NBA Playoffs at the end of this season. Despite a lackluster performance from Kristaps Porzingis, and a veteran team determined to brawl their way into the conversation, the Mavericks did what needed to be done to secure the win.
Along the way, fans had to sit through several fights, a handful of technical fouls, about a dozen charges, more than a dozen flops, and something resembling head injuries to more players than I care to mention.
When your team is led by a 20-year old from Europe and a 7’3” unicorn with a reputation for avoiding contact, you’re going to occasionally have to prove that you can stand toe-to-toe and play the physical game with the physical teams. Tonight, they did just that.
Luka the Lion-hearted
Luka isn’t just the best offensive player on the team, he’s the best everything on the team when they’re on offense. He’s the best passer, the best shooter, the best isolation player, the best at getting to the rim, and the best in any other categories you want to invent.
All he did today was win a game against an NBA team nearly by himself. He also tied his career high with 42 points, a record he’ll undoubtedly break in a few weeks as he continues to ascend to offensive levels that we’ve never seen in the NBA.
Kristaps Porzingis Tim Hardaway Jr.
This needs to be stated again: Kristaps Porzingis finished this game with 2 points on 0/8 shooting. The standard thought around the Mavericks is that they need both Luka and Kristaps to play well to win games. Tonight, Tim Hardaway Jr. threw a wrench into that thought.
As a matter of fact, Luka (42 points on 24 shots!) and Hardaway (26 points on 14 shots!) were just about the only two Mavericks who played well on offense. The only other player who finished in double-digits was Seth Curry, who finished with 11 points off of a couple of 3-pointers and 5 free throws.
Hardaway Jr. isn’t really a good #2 for the Mavericks; they really do need Porzingis to play better than this. But Hardaway’s play of late might make him out to be a fine #3 in this offense. He even played pretty good defense against Devin Booker when called to do so!
Join us Sunday when the Mavericks try once again to beat the Lakers...this time in LA.
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.