It wasn’t the start that many hoped for as the Dallas Mavericks began the 2020-21 season. In a game that came down to the closing moments against a new-look Phoenix Suns squad, the Mavericks fell short, losing 106-102.
Despite the loss, Dallas made a valiant effort to keep the game close in the second half. In the fourth quarter, particularly, head coach Rick Carlisle rode backup point guard Jalen Brunson’s hot hand as the Mavericks were able to tie the game at 96 with 3:38 to go.
“Brunson did a great job in the fourth quarter. He played pretty much the whole way,” Carlisle said. “He was aggressive, he threw in a couple of really difficult shots. But he has terrific concentration and he has a knack for doing those kinds of things.”
This was Brunson’s first regular season action since February 22 when he injured his right shoulder in a game against the Atlanta Hawks. He underwent surgery to repair his labrum in March.
While Brunson played a key role in the Mavericks’ comeback attempt—he scored all of his 12 in the frame—he wasn’t happy with his overall performance during the game. He finished the game with 12 points on 62.5 percent shooting, two rebounds, and four assists.
“I definitely started out a little slow for my liking individually,” Brunson said. “Obviously, in the fourth quarter, I picked it up a bit, but I’ve got to play like that from the minute I step in the game. I can’t ease myself into that. I gotta go, I need to step in.”
Brunson isn’t the only one who feels the need to be more assertive after the loss. Although he stuffed the box score with 32 points, eight rebounds, and five assists, Luka Doncic didn’t have a particularly good game given his high standards. Still, Doncic was able to get buckets because he remained aggressive.
“I thought he did a good job of staying aggressive downhill when the outside shots weren’t falling,” Carlisle said. “It’s the same adjustment he made when we were playing down in Orlando. He’s still getting his game legs under him and that will get there.”
Even though he got into the lane throughout the game—making 11-19 shots in the paint—he fell back on some old habits when the game was on the line. With 1:05 remaining and the Mavericks down 103-100, Doncic settled for a deep three from the wing. It hit the side of the iron.
“That was my bad,” Doncic said. “I got to stop taking these very bad shots. It wasn’t just the last one, but it was a couple of them. It’s not good for me, it’s not good for the team, and I got to change it.”
Dallas may have lost the game, but they were able to climb their way back and make things interesting late. For the Mavericks to notch wins as the season unfolds, they are going to have to play with more consistency. Even still, they almost snuck out of Talking Stick Resort Arena with a win.
“Winning and losing in the Western Conference this year is going to come down to concentration on details,” Carlisle said. “There are just a few things we’ve got to do better.”