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5 observations as the Dallas Mavericks destroy the Portland Trailblazers, 132-117

Dallas pulls back to within one game of .500

Dallas Mavericks v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

The Dallas Mavericks snapped a three game road losing streak on Monday night, defeating the Portland Trailblazers 132-117. Kristaps Porzingis led Dallas with 34 points, nine rebounds, five assists, a pair of steals, and two blocks. Josh Green notched a career high 10 assists. Damian Lilliard had 26 points in defeat for the Blazers

The two COVID-fractured teams got off to different starts with the Mavericks threatening to run away with the game early before Lillard helped get them on track. Dwight Powell paced Dallas early with 11 points and they led 34-29 after one quarter. The Blazers tied things up at 41 all, only for the Mavericks to explode offensively. Led by creative play from Dorian Finney-Smith and nice shooting from Kristaps Porzingis, Dallas went on a 31-12 run to end the half up 72-53.

Dallas never let their foot off the gas on the second half, holding and expanding to 29 points by early in the fourth. This let coach Jason Kidd see some of the replacement players hold on as Portland kept trying to find a spark but never could. The utterly atrocious Blazer defense might be some of the worst I’ve seen this entire year. The Mavericks kept pace and walked out with a 132-117 road win over the Blazers.

Now, some thoughts

Josh Green dishing for a career high by a large margin

Green getting COVID was one of the more disappointing strokes of bad luck as he’d been playing relatively nice basketball after finally getting a chance at some burn. I don’t entirely know what to make of his hilarious and awesome stat line, but one cannot simply turn away from TEN assists. His previous career high was FOUR. He’s always had a nice, but occasionally risky, passing game. He didn’t get a chance to show it as Rick Carlisle would send him to the Phantom Zone if he made a mistake. Or if a teammate couldn’t connect after a nice dish (thinking about you Willie Cauley-Stein).

Josh Bowe is of the mind now that he’d like to see Green start with Doncic and the main group and at this point... why not? The other guys haven’t made a case for themselves and Green’s at the least different. It’s something to think about at the very least. For now though, enjoy the passes.

Kristaps Porzingis hitting threes changes things for the offense

The secret about Kristaps Porzingis is that for all his unicorn qualities he is, at best, a good shooter. He’s not a great shooter. He’s inconsistent as hell and has been for his career. It’s fine, it’s not a criticism so much as a remark. I wrote in the preview about how he’s shooting just 27% from three on the year and how I think he’s bound to swing around at some point towards his career average. That means games where he’s hitting 40% or more on these attempts.

Against the Blazers he hit 3-of-7 from three, enough to move his season percentage from 27.2% to 28.0%, which is one way of saying it didn’t do much to affect his season. However, against the Blazers, his second quarter threes were pivotal in blowing the game wide open for the Mavericks. When he hits, it causes a cascade in the defense for the rest of the game. Instinctually, defenses inch closer to him when he’s out on the perimeter. Those inches make a difference on drives for other players as the game moves along.

If Dallas is to pull themselves out of the muck, the shooting of Porzingis will play a huge role.

In appreciation of the Jalen Brunson jump stop and step through

There’s a million little things Jalen Brunson does well, but my favorite has been his recurrent use of his jump stop, pump-fake, then step through for a score. He uses it in different ways which results in lay ups off the glass sometimes and cool looking step through floaters others. I wasn’t taking great notes in this game but he had one in the middle of the key in the third quarter that made me laugh out loud. His skill level and use of a more floor bound game is really fun to watch.

Brandon Knight getting on track

The Brandan Knight signing was one I was glad to see, despite his not playing on a NBA team in 2020-21. He’d slowly petered out of the league for a variety of reasons, in no small part because he wasn’t very effective in his final stops. However, this is still a professional player with nearly 450 NBA games under his belt. He had something to offer NBA teams during these strange times.

Until tonight, though, he hadn’t shown much in his previous two games. In fact, he’d been pretty bad. His 18 points and five assists against Portland were key, particularly his play in the defining second quarter. He may not have much time left in Dallas, but it was great to see him play well at least once.

Winning big is winning big

The Blazers are a tire fire. They’re COVID-19 ravaged at the moment, along with some weird injury stuff, but they’re a tire fire, even when they’re healthy. So you might hear me say on a podcast that a win like this shouldn't be overvalued. Beating bad teams is what good teams are supposed to do right?

Well the Mavericks may not be a good team. In fact, as they are right now, they’re literally not a good team in the standings. But winning is winning is winning. And demolishing a struggling opponent is not something to downplay. The Mavericks dominated this game for huge stretches. That’s really fun. With the rotation players involved in the win, it’s as good about a victory I’ve felt in sometime.

The big picture is what it is right now, with the Mavericks being a very confusing team at best. Sometimes, though, it’s worth appreciating the victory in the moment and not adding any other context. For a few minutes at least, that’s what I’m going to do.

Here’s our latest 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.