With the return of basketball on the horizon, and the 2019-20 season stretching in to what feels like its 18th year, it’s worthwhile to look back at the games that have led us to where we are now. That is, as a 7th seed gearing up for a postseason run for the first time since 2015.
Given the time between games and always-swelling tide of extenuating circumstances refusing to ever ebb, you can be forgiven for losing track of some of the moments that put the team on a path to Orlando. It hasn’t been a perfect season (team who lost to the Knicks twice says what), but there has been a ton of great Mavericks basketball this season, worthy of a quick auditing before we’re neck-deep in post-games takes and the exuberance of first-time playoff berths for Luka and Porzingis.
The Denver Game - a testament to team basketball
The Mavs have handed the Nuggets just their 18th home loss since the start of the 2017-18 season. 109-106 final. Nine Mavericks in double-digits. Sometimes stars win you games. Sometimes depth does. This one goes to the bench mob.— Bobby Karalla (@bobbykaralla) October 30, 2019
Without a doubt, the focal point of the Mavericks fan base entering this season was the brand new one-two punch of sophomore Luka Doncic and newly acquired unicorn Kristaps Porzingis sharing the floor. The game against Denver, last season’s number two finish in the West, was one of the earliest tests for this new-look teams; on the road, no less. Well… wouldn’t you know it, Luka and KP went and had one of their worst collective games of the season. But the Mavericks won anyway.
With the dynamic duo going 7-of-26 from the field and 2-of-14 from three, nothing short of a masterpiece from the rest of the team would get the job done, and that’s exactly what they turned in. It was all hands on deck, as 10 Mavericks saw playing time in this game, all for 14 or more minutes, and nine of those 10 scored in double digits. The non-Luka/Porzingis battalion shot nearly 59 percent and completely overwhelmed the Denver bench, all of whom walked away that night with double digit +/- numbers.
This team is not built to win when its star players aren’t contributing at star levels, but they won this game, and it was thanks to impressive team depth.
The Bucks Game - Porzingis can still hard carry
For those who try desperately to justify the Knicks awful trade....Kristaps Porzingis, with Luka out, scored 26 points with 12 rebounds to beat Giannis and the Bucks in Milwaukee.— Frank Isola (@TheFrankIsola) December 17, 2019
It was about mid-way through the season when the team found itself en route to Milwaukee in mid-December to face off against a Bucks team that was on an 18 game win streak and was making mince meat of the East. To make matters worse, the Mavs were going to be without Doncic, who was nursing a sprained ankle.
Reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is always going to get his against just about any team in the league, and certainly this offense-first Mavericks team was not going to be the squad to shut him down. Antetokounmpo scored 48, but the Mavericks did enough on the defensive end to hassle the rest of the Bucks into shooting under 27 percent from deep, while the Mavericks managed to hit 39 percent.
With Doncic out, Porzingis was of course the go to guy for the starting offensive unit, and he answered the call with a 26 point, 12 rebound, plus-20 night. He was helped in his efforts by Seth Curry, who matched KP’s 26 from the bench, and the pair had matching 4-of-8 nights from deep. It ended up being just enough to hold off a furious Milwaukee comeback attempt in the fourth quarter that saw the lead fall from 11 to just three in the final minute and a half.
The win against Milwaukee came at a time when grumbles about Porzingis and Luka’s fit on the floor were getting louder, but, KP’s performance in this game reminded people exactly what kind of player the team had traded for: an offensive focal point who could take over a game. Porzingis’ performance in the win was among his best all season, and it came against a Finals favorite at the peak of their powers.
The Pelicans Game - an OT thriller and peek into the future
Luka Doncic is the 5th player in NBA history with 10 30-point triple-doubles in a season.— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) March 5, 2020
He joins Oscar Robertson, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Michael Jordan pic.twitter.com/UzCWvY1L1I
No one knew it yet, but this would be one of the last games the Mavericks would play before the league was suspended. Well, if you had to ask for a game to go out on, this one delivered.
On national TV, facing off against Zion “Should have been a Maverick” Williamson for the first time due to his early season injury, Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis turned in a spectacular performance.
They became the first Mavs’ duo to go for 30-10 since 2008. Luka Doncic, whose season had become a cavalcade of “entering rare air” tweets with his almost nightly triple-doubles, became the fifth player in NBA history with ten 30-point triple-doubles in a season. On top of that, he set the Mavericks’ team record for triple doubles at age 21, passing Jason Kidd’s franchise record of 21.
The stats were gaudy, the game went into overtime on national TV, Luka vs Zion. Truly, a Little Something for Everyone™. Not only did the Doncic and Porzingis give the kind of performance fans had been salivating for all season, it was against a divisional team in the Pelicans, whose young core of Zion, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram look like the beginning of a new, long-time rivalry. Just when you thought the sun-setting of the Spurs and frantic trades of the Rockets meant the Southwest Division was open for the taking, New Orleans throws its hat into the ring for Southwestern supremacy. Isn’t basketball fun? Man, I can’t wait to watch it again. Nothing bad can possibly happen.