When it comes to this intra-Texan, Southwest Division rivalry, much of the past four or five years have been defined by Maverick futility and getting shredded by human buzzsaw and perennial MVP candidate James Harden and his Houston Rockets.
Well, Harden and his cool beard have found greener pasture in Brooklyn, and the Southwest is now firmly in the Mavericks control. Dallas has a superstar of their very own in Luka Doncic, and the team has hopes of breaking through its recent spate of first round playoff exits. Houston, on the other hand, is firmly in rebuild mode. How the turn tables, eh?
Dallas took care of business against a similarly downtrodden Raptors team, so one hopes the added enthusiasm of a home crowd to cheer them on will lead to similar results against a Houston team who’s going to be more concerned with ping pong balls in June than playoff seeding.
25 points to freedom
It took Dallas five full quarters before breaking the 25 point mark in a single frame, scoring 27 in the second quarter against the Raptors. For a team whose strength the past two seasons has been almost solely derived derived from their top-10 offense, seeing the team struggle so much at putting the ball in the basket is disconcerting. The improved defense Kidd is working to implement, and especially the early defensive play of Kristaps Porzingis has them trending in the right direction on that side of the ball, but make no mistake: this is still a team that is going to need to score in bunches to give themselves the best chance at a win.
The current lineups with Porzingis at the four with Dwight Powell at the five has endured some growing pains through two games. Whether or not that gets worked out in time remains to be seen, but it’s a relief that — at worst — Dallas can always lean on the lone big man, high pick and roll set that Luka Doncic thrives in to get them over the hump while they continue to break in Kidd’s revamped scheme like a pair of new dress shoes.
Begging for Bullock
A tradition unlike any other: Mavs fans asking “why isn’t (insert player name here) playing more?” Well, so far this season, that player is Reggie Bullock. Ostensibly Dallas’ big offseason acquisition, Bullock has gone from a starting spot in the Knicks playoff roster to coming off the bench for 15 and 17 minutes in each of the Mavs first two games. When should we expect Bullock to start playing more?
I feel safe asking this question here, in the venerated pages of the heralded Mavs Moneyball, to all of you great readers because I know Jason Kidd won’t be able to be publicly mean to me in response.
I asked Coach Kidd about Reggie Bullock only playing 15 & 17 minutes in the first two games and he answered that it was still early in the season and said...— Nick Angstadt (@NickVanExit) October 24, 2021
"I'm sorry you thought he should play more."
Bullock was briefly away from the team during the preseason for personal reasons, so that may be playing a part in his current minute allocation.
Even if he’s not a starter in the near-term, surely there’s a need for Bullock to start getting some more run. This team needs that from Bullock if for no other reason than playing an eight man rotation with the starters putting in playoff minutes (like they did against Toronto) doesn’t seem sustainable over an 82 game season.
All eyes on three
Much was made about comments by Kidd in the preseason about how Dallas might look to be less reliant on three point shots and look to operate more in the mid-range.
On a podcast with Mavs broadcaster Mark Followill, Kidd said “I know everybody cringes on the mid-range, but when you look at the teams who were just in the Finals, mid-range was big.”
While it’s true Dallas has seemingly looked to run more post ups this season through Porzingis and Dorian Finney-Smith, those shots don’t seem to have come at the expense of the all important three. So far in this young season, Dallas still finds itself shooting 42.5 threes per game. That’s good for fourth in the league. Their 46.2% three point frequency also ranks fourth and is in line with the 43.7% frequency they shot from deep last season.
The three point shot remains one of the best indicators of wins and losses. Tim Hardaway Jr.’s torrid 7-of-11 shooting night from beyond the arc was one of the main contributing factors to Dallas pulling away late and getting their first win of the season.
To that end, hopefully Doncic is able to find his shot a little sooner this season than last. He opened the 2020 campaign by going 2-for-21 through four games in December. So far this year, he’s just 4-for-17. A fair bit better than the 9% he was shooting early last year, but certainly far below what we know he can do.
How to watch
You can watch the broadcast on Bally Sports at 7:30 or by astral projecting your consciousness into the AAC and that’s it. (But Mark Cuban is looking for creative ways to make it easier for fans to simply… watch their team play.)