The Unicorn is back! It is too soon to actually say that but for the first half of Monday’s game against the Charlotte Hornets, he definitely was. There have been 10 games in NBA history where a player had at least 24 points, 13 rebounds, five blocks and three made threes.
Last night was Porzingis’ fourth game meeting all of those requirements. No one else has done it more than once. Porzingis has been polarizing to the Dallas Mavericks fan base at times, but this was a fantastic reminder of the unique talent that he still possesses.
He did not add much statistically in the second half because the Mavericks were absolutely dominating the game and he didn’t need to. In addition to the raw statistics, he moved incredibly well. The Hornets played a large amount of “small ball” which has given Porzingis and the Mavericks problems at time. Porzingis put Miles Bridges(we still love you, please sign here next offseason) in the torture chamber on both ends all night. Bridges is one of the absolute best athletes in the league but Porzingis had the block of the season on an extremely ambitious Bridges dunk attempt.
The allure of Porzingis is that he allows the Mavericks the benefits of a “small ball” lineup without actually being small. Porzingis is the tallest player in the NBA who gets regular rotation minutes. Any lineup with him in it is inherently not small. Yet, he provides the same shooting and skill that most associate with the best “small ball” lineups.
Towards the end of his first season in Dallas, Porzingis fulfilled this ideal by providing somewhere between good and great defense. Last season, due to a combination of injuries and rust, Porzingis’ defense slipped and he no longer provided the best of both worlds. He has regained some mobility this season and because his athleticism has gotten closer to what it used to be, his timing on shot blocking has returned.
Until last night, his shooting had struggled mightily this season. Porzingis has made at least three threes in only five games this season. Among those games, his explosion against the San Antonio Spurs is the only game in which he had more than one block. The five blocks last night coupled with his shooting is the first time he has truly displayed all of his talents at once.
There will always be fear of the next injury with Porzingis until he can remain healthy for a prolonged stretch. The Mavericks have chosen to remain patient with Porzingis through a combination of prudence and likely a lack of viable options. This has been infuriating to some at times, but last night was an example of why that patience is warranted. The Mavericks are not in a position to get less talented, and when everything is right there are very few players more talented than the original unicorn.