The term "emotional roller coaster" is thrown around a lot and, at this point, is probably a cliché, but it certainly describes my feelings during the Mavs 109-104 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. The game was tight throughout the first quarter, ending with the Mavs up by five. In the second quarter, though, the Mavs scored at will and finished with 41 points for a 71-56 halftime lead. The third quarter saw the Lakers outscore the Mavs 31-14 and take a two-point lead into the fourth quarter. In the fourth, the Lakers went up 100-94 with about 7:23 left in the game, but the Mavs defense kicked into gear and held the Lakers to only 4 points the rest of the game. The game was close; the Mavs went up, the game got close again, the Mavs went down, then ended up winning. So very frustrating, but a win is a win, especially against the Lakers.
The Mavs are now 37-25 on the season but 22-8 in their last 30 games and are finding different ways of winning. They beat the Warriors by going small and using Dorian Finney-Smith at the 5, Bertans at the 4, and employing the three-guard lineup of Luka, Jalen, and Spencer. This time, though, Kidd opted to forego the three-guard lineup to finish the game and instead had Jalen Brunson play the entire 4th while Luka Doncic and Spencer Dinwiddie split time. Powell and Kleber combined to play just seven seconds in the 4th against the Warriors but combined to play the entire 4th against the Lakers while Davis Bertans sat on the bench. Against the Lakers, the Mavs went "big" by utilizing Maxi Kleber and Dwight Powell. When Marquis Chriss returns from his injury, the Mavs will have three big men and allow Kidd more versatility in his lineups.
It seems now that the Mavs are finding different ways to win games, and the lineup now has the flexibility it didn’t have in the days of Kristaps Porzingis and makes this Mavs team so much more fun to watch. I believe that the Mavs have a real shot at getting past the first round this year, and if the right matchup happens, Mavs fans might even see them advance to the Western Conference Finals. Of course, I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but I now have an almost giddy optimism I didn’t have earlier in the season. I think, for me, part of that is that Porzingis is gone. I wanted KP to be the second star behind Luka that the Mavs needed, but it seems he was too high maintenance, and it cost the Mavs some cohesion. Turning KP into Dinwiddie and Bertans has made the Mavs so much more fun to watch now. The Mavs need to go 13-7 the rest of the season to get 50 wins. It might be unlikely, but I feel like they have a chance to do it. Even if they don’t, though, they are now an entertaining team on top of winning, and ultimately that’s what fans want—fun winning.