The Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies clashed at the American Airlines Center Friday night. It was their third meeting of the season, and the first that featured both Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis.
A major storyline heading into the night were injuries, as both teams were missing key pieces. The Grizzlies were without the young post duo of Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke. The Mavericks missed both Tim Hardaway Jr. and Dorian Finney-Smith, then lost Seth Curry in the second quarter after he turned his ankle on a scoring drive.
It’s not unusual for teams to be beat up this late in the season, but it has felt like a constant downpour of injuries for the Mavericks of late. Nevertheless, they persisted. Following the lead of an aggressive Kristaps Porzingis, who is continuing an elite stretch of basketball, the Mavericks led nearly start to finish.
The game blew wide open in the third quarter when the Mavericks outscored the Grizzlies 34-16, and extend their lead to 30. Most of the fourth quarter was a wash, though Memphis didn’t quit. But ultimately the third quarter proved too much for the Grizzlies, and the Mavericks notched another home win XXX-XXX. It continued the trend of big wins in this matchup this season.
Can we just rest?
In the darkest moments it’s okay to wonder how many wins the Mavericks could secure the rest of the season if they just sat Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr., Seth Curry, and Maxi Kleber. Game after game it feels like the Mavericks are teetering on the brink of extinction from turned ankles alone.
In a chaotic stretch in the second quarter Doncic landed on his bad hand, Curry turned his ankle severe enough to go straight to the locker room, and Porzingis turned his ankle landing on Anthony Tolliver. And that’s nothing to say of the absence of Dwight Powell, Jalen Brunson, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Hardaway.
To the Mavericks’ credit they took care of business, and the end of the bench stepped up in this one. Hopefully the Mavericks can use the next few weeks to mend so they aren’t limping into the postseason.
Kristaps Porzingis has been the best player for the Mavericks over the last month-plus, taking steps that fans hoped he may reach next season, and critics predicted he’d never take. And it’s happening at both ends of the floor.
His 26 points, 11 rebounds and four assists are nice (and going 4-of-9 from three doesn’t hurt), but how about four blocks? How about three steals? Porzingis is not just finding a rhythm with his jumper, he’s crashing the boards hard; he’s diving on the floor for loose balls. He’s somewhat quietly become an effort leader for this team at just the right time.
In his last three games he has 14 blocks. FOURTEEN. It’s exciting to see KP turn a corner, and do so this quickly in a new system. It was clear a while ago that the Mavericks stole him from the Knicks, but what he’s doing now is more than most could dream.
Finding success at home
It’s been mostly against lesser opponents, but it is still worth noting that the Mavericks have won their last four home games. They will have another important matchup Sunday evening against the Indiana Pacers, with a chance to stretch that streak to five.
It’s not fully clear why the Mavericks have had such issues playing consistently at home this season, but it’s nice to see them string some wins together. And they’ve done so in a variety of ways.
The Mavericks have 18 games left, nine on the road and nine at home. Seven of those home games are against playoff teams. This is gut check time, and it couldn’t be more exciting.
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.