The Dallas Mavericks fell to the Knicks 117-109. Lately the Mavericks refuse to start games with any sort of urgency or aggression, preferring instead to come from behind and make it a close game. They kept that same energy, as the kids say, and this time Luka Doncic had no miracle shot to bail them out at the end.
The Knicks, however, were interested in winning the game, and came out of the gate strong. They also hit almost every shot they took. Julius Randle came out on fire, and the Mavericks had no one to answer his challenge. The Knicks led by nine after the first quarter.
Tim Hardaway Jr kept the Mavericks in the game, coming off the bench to score 16 points in the first half. Dallas made a run toward the end of the second quarter, closing the gap, but ended up down four at halftime. The Knicks closed the half with a free throw off of a Kristaps Porzingis technical foul and a late 3-pointer by R.J. Barrett.
The Mavericks came out looking more crisp to open the third, taking the lead on a Josh Richardson 3-pointer a little less than three minutes into the quarter. But they couldn’t pull away, and the teams traded the lead throughout the rest of the third. Yet again, though, the Knicks closed the quarter strong, holding a 83-79 lead going into the fourth.
The Mavericks couldn’t put together a run to overtake the Knicks in the closing quarter. They would get within a few possession of pulling even with New York, only to give up second chance points, miss open shots, and turn the ball over, usually leading to points the other way. Dallas didn’t play consistent for more than a few minutes at a time, and it resulted in yet another loss to a bad team.
Here are three observations from the game:
Luka’s odd passiveness in the first half.
Doncic took only four shots in the first half, choosing instead to set up his teammates. He dished out plenty of open shots, finishing with an eye-popping 19 assists. Doncic did the same on Wednesday against the Grizzlies, taking only five shots in the first half. It’s not clear if he’s just taking what opponents give him or if it’s a deliberate strategy, but it’s worth keeping an eye on going forward.
No answer for Julius Randle.
The Mavericks simply had no answer for Randle. He scored 21 points in the first half and finished with 44. He carved them up in every way possible. He was 6-11 from behind the arc, adding 10 rebounds, and seven assists. Maxi Kleber was tasked with defending him most of the game, with Dorian Finney-Smith helping, and it didn’t go very well. Kleber just doesn’t have the foot speed lately to keep up with Randle, possibly due to a nagging leg injury. It might be as simple as being worn out. The Mavericks didn’t double team Randle until late in the game, and it may not have mattered if they did earlier. He was seeing the floor well all game.
The Mavericks are always lacking something extra.
Typically Dallas will get a huge game from Doncic, or Porzingis, or both, but nothing from their supporting cast. Tonight, it was the opposite. Richardson scored 14, Hardaway put up 16, Finney-Smith got 13, and JJ Redick contributed nine points. Jalen Brunson was off all night, but chipped in six points. But Doncic and Porzingis were simply good, scoring 22 and 23 respectively. The Mavericks needed a big game from one of their stars to match the output from Randle, and simply didn’t get it.
That’s a disturbing trend from this team. They always seem to lack whatever it would take to win, whether it’s bench scoring, shooting, or a big performance from one of their two all-stars. A lot of it is just bad luck. It’s been as rough a season as a playoff team can have, and this game was a microcosm of the entire year.
Here’s the postgame podcast, Mavs Moneyball After Dark. If you can’t see the embed below “More from Mavs Moneyball”, click here. And if you haven’t yet, subscribe by searching “Mavs Moneyball podcast” into your favorite podcast app.