The Dallas Mavericks defeated the Houston Rockets 112-106 Friday night in Houston to push the Mavericks record back over .500 on the season (17-16) thanks to a monster 50-point game from Mavericks star Luka Doncic.
It wasn’t the crispest of games, as both teams had multiple spurts of flat, ugly basketball. The Mavericks television broadcast said due to the extreme winter weather in Minnesota, where the Mavericks played Wednesday night, and in Dallas, where the Mavericks traveled through to get to Houston, the team didn’t get into their hotels until extremely early Friday. That could explain some of the weird phases the Mavericks went through in this game.
Dallas started hot, with a 30-24 opening quarter before pushing the lead to as high as 16 in the second quarter. Houston chipped away a bit to make it respectable at halftime, but in the third quarter the Rockets blitzed a lethargic looking Mavericks squad, outscoring Dallas 34-20.
In the fourth quarter, it was Luka Doncic time. Doncic practically closed the game out by himself, scoring in a variety of ways before nailing a deep three pointer in the final seconds to give the Mavericks a five point lead. Doncic finished with 50 points, eight rebounds, and 10 assists. Jabari Smith Jr., the third overall pick in the 2022 draft, led Houston with 24 points.
Here’s what we noticed.
Luka Doncic is pretty good at basketball
On a night where his teammates had almost nothing to offer offensively, Luka Doncic had one of the best games of his career. It’s the second time he’s reached 50, narrowly missing out on his career-high 51 from a game last season against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Luka had everything in his bag tonight — hard drives to the rim, bullying post-ups, smooth fadeaway midrange jumpers, and the long ball. Doncic went 6-of-12 from three, the most threes he’s hit in a game since the Dec. 1 loss to the Detroit Pistons.
It wasn’t just Luka’s scoring, his passing was sublime too. The Mavericks only had two other players in double-figures, and both players (Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans) just had 11 points each. Somehow Doncic still got to 10 assists, although he did have seven turnovers. When Doncic wasn’t losing the ball, he was either scoring or slinging sweet passes to the corner. Unfortunately, the non-Doncic Mavericks shot 10-of-32 from three.
Luka’s fourth quarter was easily his most impressive stretch, where he almost single-handedly carried the Mavericks across the finish line. He scored 17 of the Mavericks 31 points, going 7-of-9 from the floor. After a Bertans three with 2:56 left in the game gave the Mavericks a 108-104 lead, Doncic’s teammates preceded to miss a bundle of open shots, before Doncic ended things himself with a 30-foot three point dagger with 19 seconds left.
A masterful performance from one of the best in the game. This hopefully bodes well for the Mavericks upcoming Christmas Day showdown with the Lakers.
The Mavericks defied fate!
Tim Hardaway Jr. had a miserable shooting night, scoring seven points on 2-of-13 shooting, missing all seven of his three point attempts.
While Hardaway being streaky is not breaking news, the Mavericks winning during one of his cold spells certainly is — in Hardaway’s previous 18 games played, the Mavericks were 0-9 in the games Hardaway shot under 40 percent from three.
This might be the best news of the Mavericks season so far. There are only two conclusions (do not debate me): the Rockets are seriously a bad NBA team, or the Mavericks have broken a horrible curse that had a stranglehold on the outcome of the teams’ games. I choose to believe the latter and maybe this is the good omen the Mavericks need to finally make a run up the Western Conference standings.
Dynamite effort from the bench
The Mavericks injury list is starting to grow to an uncomfortable level. Maxi Kleber is out for likely the rest of the season after surgery on his left hamstring. Dorian Finney-Smith missed his second straight game with an abductor injury. Josh Green was still out with a sprained elbow. To make matters worse, Reggie Bullock left the game in the third quarter with a strained neck. This stinks!
It’s a big reason why the Mavericks lollygagging to a .500 record while the team was fully healthy was so concerning — teams rarely make it through an 82-game season without some injury adversity. So that’s why it was such a pleasant surprise to see the seriously stretched Mavericks bench put in a delightful performance.
Bertans wasn’t on fire, but his 11 points in 17 minutes were huge and he made a clutch three in the fourth quarter. Theo Pinson made his first two three pointers of the season in the first half. McKinley Wright jumped up from the G-League for his first regular season game with the Mavericks and had a respectable night running the backup unit offensively. Frank Ntilikina, who entered tonight shooting 11-of-40 overall and 5-of-22 from three on the season made 3-of-4 shots, including a three pointer.
With how dreadful the non-Luka starters were, the bench really saved this game from being an embarrassing loss.
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