The Mavericks had a short week, only playing Wednesday and Friday after Saturday/Sunday back-to-back last weekend. The Jazz came in as one of the top teams in the West, and the Mavericks hit big shots down the stretch to take that game 103-100. The Raptors then came into town as one of the best teams in the east, and Dallas took advantage of Toronto’s short-handed lineup, claiming their third straight victory, 111-110. Luka Doncic became just the second player in history to score 30 in eight consecutive games to open a season, joining Wilt Chamberlain.
Team grade: B
Although the Mavericks were 2-0 this week, the issues from last week are still there. Christian Wood was taken out with 7:59 left in the fourth quarter against Toronto, and did not return. Wood had 13 points and five rebounds in his 23 minutes, and has shown time and time again that he deserves a chance to play down the stretch. The Mavericks have chosen to go with Maxi Kleber over him, probably because of the trust they gained with him over the last few years.
Not only has this been foolish (because Kleber doesn’t look the same defensively), but it has started to become dangerous with respect to keeping Christian Wood long-term. Wood looked visibly upset when he was taken out, and didn’t stand up with the huddle at the next timeout. Rightfully so, he has done everything he can to prove that he should get at least more minutes, and probably a starting spot. If Dallas does not relinquish their stubborn attitude towards him, they might lose a key piece that they acquired for almost nothing.
Dwight Powell returned to the starting lineup against the Raptors after playing very well off the bench in the previous games. This was another mistake, as the Mavericks gave up four offensive rebounds in the first six minutes. Powell does a lot of things well, but his deficiencies are magnified when he plays extended minutes against other teams’ best players. Powell needs a bench role, because anything more is going to hurt the team.
Luka Doncic has continued to put up historic numbers as his MVP campaign continues. Fadeaways, step-backs, and now hook shots have all been deployed from his seemingly unlimited offensive arsenal:
Straight A’s: Spencer Dinwiddie
Dinwiddie averaged a hair over 20 points and six assists this past week, which is exactly what the Mavericks need him to do for extended stretches to be successful. He made plays in both games, but specifically in the clutch against Utah where he had a layup to put Dallas up six with under two minutes to go. Dinwiddie has looked aggressive, is creating for others, and has shot 42.3 percent from three, which is third on the team to Christian Wood and Josh Green (of players who have played in multiple games).
The Mavericks desperately need Dinwiddie to continue playing at this level next to Doncic. The value of a player who can create for himself and others when Doncic gets double teamed quite literally will be the difference in deciding games. Dinwiddie played his role to perfection this week, and therefore receives a ton of credit.
Failing miserably: The Mavericks with a double digit lead
As I sat in my seat Friday night and the Mavericks went up 19 points in the third quarter, I turned to my brother and said, “Oh? We’re up by 19? Can’t wait to blow this lead”. Like clockwork, the Raptors hit a three almost in conjunction with the words “blow this lead”.
When the Mavericks go up big, their offense gets stagnant and they become uninterested on defense at times. In their seven clutch games, they have had a lead of ten or more four times. It is puzzling why this happens. Some of it is too much “Luka ball”, some of it is coaching, but a lot of it is effort and complacency. Playing to win is different from playing not to lose, and it seems like they play not to lose when they have a large lead. This needs to be fixed, especially because they seemed to be a lot better at handling a lead last season.
Extra credit: The Friday post-game presser
If you didn’t watch the Toronto game Friday night, there were a lot of strange calls. At one point in the fourth quarter, there were three consecutive offensive fouls called on Dallas. If that has ever happened in NBA history, seldom have we seen it.
In the second quarter, Spencer Dinwiddie got called for a technical after being called for a transition take foul, and revealed that there was an exchange between one of the referees and a another Maverick that sparked Dinwiddie to address it first thing after the game: