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Three things we observed as the Mavericks hold on against the Spurs, 109-103.

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The Spurs made things interesting late, but Doncic and the Mavericks slammed the door shut to go 13 games over .500 for the first time this season.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at San Antonio Spurs Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Looking for the 20th road victory of the season, the Mavericks jumped on the Spurs right after the opening tip. While the offense started slow, Dallas was ignited by Kristaps Porzingis’ 16 first quarter points, six rebounds, two blocks, two steals and Luka Doncic’s seven assists. It would have been the perfect first quarter had Doncic not bolted to the locker room after Marco Belinelli swung down down hard on his thumb/wrist. Behind a 56.5 shooting clip, the Mavericks took a 36-30 lead after one.

Dallas stretched the lead to 19 in the opening ticks of the second quarter, but San Antonio answered with an 8-0 run while the Mavericks missed open looks and got sloppy with the ball. Dallas briefly righted the ship, buoying the lead up to 15, but the second quarter hinged on these stats: The Spurs scored 20 points in the paint, but the Mavericks were able to counter with six made threes compared to the Spurs one made three. Dallas maintained a 59-49 lead into the half.

The teams traded blows in the third quarter with neither team able to gain traction in a back-and-forth frame. The Spurs cut the lead to eight with just under 10 minutes to go, but the Mavericks pushed the lead back to 15 minutes later. The Spurs then cut the lead back down to single digits, but the Mavericks answered once again to push it back to 14. Aside from the runs, the third quarter was dominated by the stars with Doncic and DeMar DeRozan both scoring 12 points in the quarter. But Dallas stayed at an arms’ distance with an 88-77 lead after three.

The fourth quarter started ominously with the Spurs racing out to a 6-0 run to cut the lad to five. The lid was absolutely on the basket for the Mavericks as they only scored one point in the first six minutes of the quarter. After San Antonio took the lead on a Trey Lyles triple, Dallas finally hit a field goal on a Dorian Finney-Smith corner three with 5:30 left in the game. Later with the game tied at 96 all, Porzingis put in his first field goal since the first quarter on an and-one and hit a three on the next possession. In all the Mavericks scored 12 straight points, all on Doncic assists and a made triple.

The game appeared to be out of reach then, but the Spurs wouldn’t go away quietly threatening the lead late toward the end. However they couldn’t quite get over the hump and the Mavericks were able to squeak out a victory, 109-103.

We’ll save a fourth quarter collapse note for another time, so here’s what else we observed:

Doncic dazzled

For most of the game I was thinking how Doncic didn’t really play all that well, but was still going to flirt with a triple double. Impressive no doubt. But after the Mavericks blew another fourth quarter lead, and the game was teetering in the balance, it was clear Doncic was saving his brilliance for the final moments.

With the score tied at 96-96 with four minutes left, the Mavericks spouted off for 12 straight points. Porzingis chipped in an and-one off a Doncic feed right at the rim. Then Porzingis canned a triple off a Doncic assist. Right after that Curry buried a corner three off a Doncic assist. And to cap it off and put the nail in the coffin, Doncic hoisted a step-back three to polish off the 12-0 run and put the game mostly out of reach.

The second-year superstar finished with 26 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists giving him 21 career triple doubles, tied for the most in franchise history. He’s also obliterated the record for most triple doubles before a 21st birthday, besting Magic Johnson’s seven and LeBron James’ five.

The zone worked

The Mavericks’ zone is very much a ‘sum is greater than it’s parts’ type of deal because it’s clear the Mavericks’ don’t have a lockdown defender. And that was evident by DeRozan’s 27 points. But Rick Carlisle deployed the zone early in the game, and Dallas was able to break the game open early. And when the Spurs clawed back into the game late in the fourth, the zone reappeared and helped give Dallas some cushion. The Spurs were forced in to tough shots and even turned the ball over on a shot clock violation.

Porzingis was a few foul calls away from detonating

He had about as perfect of a first quarter as one could hope for:

The only thing that stopped him was the foul trouble. He picked up his third early, and it threw off his whole rhythm. After his first quarter explosion, he didn’t score a field goal until late in the fourth quarter. Still, Porzingis totaled a team-high 28 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks, and two steals while shooting 8-of-14 from the field and 4-of-8 from three. That’s simply an absurd stat line and doesn’t even encapsulate how well he protected the rim.

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.