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3 thoughts from a 105-99 Dallas Mavericks win over the Kings

The Mavericks showed some grit and pulled out a win.

Sacramento Kings v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Dallas Mavericks defeated the Sacramento Kings 105-99 on Sunday afternoon. Luka Doncic led all scorers with 23 points, while chipping in 10 assists and eight rebounds, falling just short of a triple double. Richaun Holmes led the Kings with 22 points and 13 rebounds.

The Mavericks had their first hot start to a game all season, opening up a 22-7 lead behind some deadly three-point shooting. Dallas shot 5-of-10 from behind the arc in the first quarter, which gave them a 31-22 lead. It was the first time they led after the opening quarter all season.

But the Kings battled back in the second quarter, despite some abysmal shooting on three pointers. Sacramento finished the first half 2-of-16 from deep, but a 34-26 first half advantage in points in the paint helped them erase the Mavericks’ advantage. They pulled within one early in the second quarter, but Dallas held them off and went into halftime with a six point lead.

The third quarter was more of the same, as neither team could really get a rhythm on offense. The Kings kept hanging around, but could never overtake the Mavericks. Dallas couldn’t put together a run to give themselves a good cushion. But then the Kings closed within two points with a little more than two minutes remaining in the quarter, and the Mavericks proceeded to go on a 10-2 run to close the quarter.

But the Kings refused to go away and once again ground away at the Mavericks’ lead. With a little more than four minutes remaining, the Kings cut the lead to three and had Doncic trapped near the logo with six seconds left on the shot clock. But then on Halloween, magic broke out at the AAC. Doncic nailed a three pointer from the logo to put Dallas up six, and on the next possession the Mavericks got a steal and a Tim Hardaway Jr. dunk on a fast break to go up eight, and they never looked back.

Here are three thoughts from the win:

Luka Doncic was more aggressive to start the game, but fell off.

Doncic hadn’t been driving as much this season, and the result has been a fall-off in free throws. He’s only averaging four per game so far this year. But against the Kings, he went to the basket often to start. He had six free throws in the first half, above his season average of four. Doncic only went 2-of-6 at the line, though. His struggles at the charity stripe are well-known at this point, but he can’t make them if he doesn’t play in a way to get calls. Doncic didn’t get some calls in the third quarter, which resulted in him getting frustrated and earning his first technical of the year. Afterward, his aggressiveness curbed. Doncic is leaving points on the table by settling for jump shots and needs to attack the basket the whole game.

Frank Ntilikina provided a spark off the bench.

Ntilikina played his typical pesky defense, staying locked on the Kings’ guards, fighting over screens and contesting shots. But he also moved the ball on offense and shot well from deep, finishing 2-of-2 on three pointers, with 12 points and two assists off the bench. If the Mavericks can get that type of production from him consistently this season, it’ll be a huge positive. Dallas tried desperately to find someone to contribute off the bench in such a manner last season and failed over and over again. Ntilikina playing this way, on a minimum contract, would be one of the biggest steals of the offseason.

Dorian Finney-Smith continues to struggle.

Finney-Smith went 1-of-6 from deep today, which makes him 6-32 on the season. The Mavericks just can’t get away with a starter on the perimeter shooting 19 percent on three pointers. Something’s got to give. Finney-Smith makes an impact elsewhere. He’s solid on defense against most players, and he’s the best offensive rebounder on the team. But if his shooting slump continues, it might be time to look to Reggie Bullock to replace him with starter’s minutes, although Bullock’s shooting hasn’t been great either.

Here’s our lastest episode of Mavs Moneyball After Dark. If you’re unable to see the embed below, click here to be taken to the podcast directly. Or go to your favorite podcast app and search Mavs Moneyball Podcast.