A depleted Mavericks team was back in Dallas to face the Chicago Bulls in an attempt to avoid back-to-back losses. They would have to do so without six rotation players:
- Jalen Brunson (Health and Safety Protocols)
- Dorian Finney-Smith (Health and Safety Protocols)
- Josh Richardson (Health and Safety Protocols)
- Dwight Powell (Health and Safety Protocols)
- Maxi Kleber (Health and Safety Protocols)
- Tim Hardaway Jr. (Left groin strain)
Luka Doncic — who the Mavericks desperately needed to have a big game — got off to a scorching hot start, scoring eight of Dallas’s first 10 points. The Bulls steadily built a lead primarily from the production of their frontcourt. Starters Wendell Carter Jr. and Lauri Markkanen combined for 11 points, while Daniel Gafford and Thaddeus Young combined for nine off the bench. Doncic, doing everything he could to keep the Mavs in it, scored or assisted on all of the Mavericks' first 19 points. Still, Dallas trailed 27-23 after one quarter.
The start of the second quarter was all Bulls, who opened on a 10-0 run. Doncic continued to do what he could to keep the Mavericks close, especially as Kristaps Porzingis struggled from the floor. Porzingis made just two of his first nine shots from the field. The Bulls continued to capitalize on empty Dallas possessions, building their lead to 19 at one point. Garrett Temple was a huge spark for the Bulls off the bench, scoring 17 first-half points. Meanwhile, Doncic continued to have a ridiculous game, posting 30 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and two steals by halftime. Despite the incredible production, the Mavericks trailed 67-52 at the half.
Doncic had already secured a triple-double by the third quarter. During the stretch where Doncic hit that mark, the Mavericks started to gain some momentum, but the Bulls once again answered with an 8-0 run towards the end of the quarter. Porzingis and Willie Cauley-Stein led Dallas in scoring with six each, but the Bulls' production from top to bottom allowed them to enter the final quarter with an 89-75 lead.
The Mavericks were scrappy in the fourth quarter, finally being able to string together consecutive stops and score on the other end. But the Bulls, who had been bad in crunch time this season, weren’t willing to budge. Chicago would go on to outscore Dallas in the fourth quarter, putting a nightcap on a 117-101 win.
The weight on Doncic’s shoulders
The Mavericks just don’t have enough weapons healthy right now to win games if Doncic plays average. The MVP favorite is going to have to play a very good game each time out for the next two weeks or so. Today’s game was ridiculously impressive, yet it still wasn’t enough.
Doncic finished the game with a mind-blowing 36 points, 16 rebounds, and 15 assists. This was only the eighth 35/15/15 line in NBA history, according to StatHead. Not only did Doncic produce in the box score, but he also made ridiculous passes like these to give his team energy. Great players make everyone around them better — that’s been true for Doncic his whole career. Now, it would just be nice if that turned into some wins during this shorthanded stretch.
LUKA DONCIC double behind the back on the dribble AND the pass to Willie. Good Lord. pic.twitter.com/OMQTjem16X— Nick Angstadt (@NickVanExit) January 17, 2021
The lack of depth
It feels redundant to say, but the Mavericks' lack of rotation pieces is going to be very difficult to cover up. Two-way players are checking into the game for Dallas while other teams are playing their usual reserves. That’s a difficult assignment to stay competitive through, and one that the Mavericks may not be able to fight through.
Today, the Mavericks’ bench was out-scored 61-22. The few healthy pieces left on the bench just did not produce. Trey Burke had five points in 29 minutes and was a minus-23. James Johnson had five turnovers and four fouls. Dallas just doesn’t have a chance to win games right now when things like this happen.
The fact of the matter is that players in the bottom of the rotation are playing more minutes right now than they usually would be. Taking advantage of these chances is not only key for players to potentially earn more minutes, but also help out a short-handed Mavericks team. Today, opportunities were squandered.
Josh Green was 1-of-4 in 32 minutes and had three turnovers, including an abysmal pass to begin the third quarter that got him immediately benched. Tyrell Terry had four points in 15 minutes. Wes Iwundu looked good despite only scoring nine points. The Mavericks just need players — anyone — to step up during this tough stretch.