Kristaps Porzingis and the Dallas Mavericks welcomed the New York Knicks to the American Airlines Center Friday night, in a clash of two teams meeting for the first time since their blockbuster trade last winter.
It was a reunion for more than just Porzingis, as Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee were also part of that January deal. Dennis Smith Jr. was sent to New York in the trade, but did not appear in tonight’s matchup.
Rick Carlisle trot out yet another starting lineup combination, adding Lee, Dorian Finney-Smith and Dwight Powell to the superstar duo of Luka Doncic and Porzingis.
The Mavericks brought some of the ugly play from their home win to the Orlando Magic Wednesday to tonight’s contest, finding themselves clawing from behind all night. And while Luka Doncic (a career high 38 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists) and Kristaps Porzingis (28 points, nine rebounds and five blocks before fouling out) did most of the legwork tonight, the Mavericks could never play consistently enough or stop the Knicks power forwards. The Mavericks lost 106-102, the New York Knicks getting their second win of the season.
The Courtney Lee experiment
Mavericks wing Courtney Lee, who rarely appeared last season after the Mavericks made the trade with the Knicks, has started three games this season. In two of those games he did not start the second half. He has not played in a game he did not start.
It’s a curious thing, this Lee experiment Rick Carlisle is on. In the season opener Carlisle explained that Lee had the best tape on guarding Wizards star Bradley Beal. That’s a reasonable enough idea, considering nothing was solidified with the starting group anyway. But overall, Lee has provided little in 27 minutes over three games.
There is still plenty of time for Carlisle to do what he loves: tinker with the rotations with tweezers and a magnifying glass. But Lee has got to start showing something.
Tim Hardaway Jr. gets a free pass?
The other former-Knicks wing, Tim Hardaway Jr. had strung together several solid shooting nights from deep, tonight he was mostly chucking into the void. Going 5-of-15 from the floor (3-of-10 from three, with two late threes), Hardaway was shooting nearly every time he touched the ball.
THJ is now 15-of-48 from deep, and is attempting the third most on the team. It’s so much volume with so little consistency. And yet, it doesn’t seem to effect his playing time. So often Carlisle will send role players into bench obscurity if they so much as make one mistake in a game. But it looks like he’s comfortable watching Hardaway pop-a-shotting his way through 23 minutes per game.
Power Forward Play
The Mavericks were eaten alive by the Knicks corral of power forwards. Marcus Morris looked like a five-time NBA All-Star going for 29 points and nine rebounds. Julius Randle, who notoriously feasts on Mavericks jerseys, continued to out-hustle Dwight Powell (and sometimes Maxi Kleber) and posted 21 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Even Bobby Portis came off the bench for 14 points and 12 rebounds, dominating parts of the first half.
There have been stretches early in this season where opponents have found weak-spots in the Mavericks interior and continually exploit it. The Mavericks lost this game because no one outside of Doncic and Porzingis could really get going, but their inability to slow down this platoon was maddening.
[Insert Obscure Sponsor] presents “Coach’s Challenge”
The season-long tryout of the Coach’s Challenge this NBA season feels bizarre early in its experiment. It will be interesting to see how it progresses, and how they’re used later in the year when it feels like games have real gravity.
Tonight both coaches succesfully used their lone challenge on key foul calls on important players. The first when Frank Ntilikina tried to end Porzingis’ life in the lane. KP met him in the air, blocked the dunk attempt, but was initially called for what would have been his third foul. Soon after, Knicks head coach David Fizdale challenged an offensive foul call on Julius Randle, in what would have been his third foul.
Still, I propose the challenge can stick around after this season if and only if it gets sponsored like one of those no name college football bowl game and has to be announced on the mic by the lead official. “The Mavericks are using their ‘PepperoniFurnitureMart.com Coach’s Challenge’ on the last foul call.” Let’s get whacky with it!
Here’s the postgame podcast, Mavs Moneyball After Dark. If you can’t see the embed below “More from Mavs Moneyball” a bit further down the page, click here. And if you haven’t yet, subscribe by searching “Mavs Moneyball podcast” into your favorite podcast app.