Coming into the game without Christian Wood, who is expected to be out at least another week with a thumb injury, things started about as badly as could be imagined. Just three minutes after tipoff, Luka Doncic came down on the foot of a Suns player and sprained his ankle. He was ruled out for the game, though x-rays were negative.
In his absence, Spenser Dinwiddie took it upon himself to play the role of the designated flamethrower, going for 36 points on 10-of-18 shooting to go along with an 11-of-14 night at the line. He led all scorers. Phoenix was buoyed early but a hot start beyond the arc from Chris Paul who shot 4-of-6 on the night and totaled 22 points. Four other suns finished in double digits including 22 from Cam Johnson, whose hot streak in the second half nearly put Phoenix over the top.
Doncic down, defense up
This game was the polar opposite of the 127-126 barnburner of a loss to the Wizards that Dallas suffered in their last outing. It featured some impressive individual offensive performances, but both teams ended the game scoring below triple digits, something nearly unheard of in the modern NBA.
Dallas did well to force Phoenix, a team more than happy to default to jump shots, into the midrange. The Suns took 86 shots on the night and 33 were two-point shots outside the restricted area. They hit just eight of them. Compare that to just 5-of-21 two-point field goal shooting outside the restricted zone for Dallas.
It’s called chemistry, I have it with everyone
If Dwight Powell is the lifeblood of the Dallas Mavericks, he would be AB positive, the universal recipient. He doesn’t care who’s out there running the offense, he’s getting open down low and rim-running to catch lobs. Four of Dinwiddie’s nine assists were to Powell at the rim.
On top of his expertly rote rim running, he also came up huge on the offensive glass late in a close game. When Dinwiddie missed a free throw with just over a minute left, Powell tipped it out for Bullock and an extra possession. Then, with just 12 seconds left in a three-point game, Powell beat Ayton, who had 20 rebounds on the night, to the ball after a missed Bullock free throw that would’ve iced the game. His hustle drew the foul on Ayton, sending him to the line where he nailed both freebies and sealed the win. An ultimate pro.
Shot in the arm
Something about being without Luka seems to heighten the engagement across the floor. It’s easy to see with a player like Dinwiddie, who suddenly has the ball in his hands nearly every possession, but it’s a team-wide effect. Players cut, they move, and they work for a drive to the rim. Perhaps it’s because they know the possession can’t end with a Doncic bail-out or back-down against his chosen switch.
And for all the talk coach Jason Kidd does about improving on the defensive end, the fact remains that this team, as assembled around Luka, is built to out-score people. Well, when you lose the league’s leading (second-leading after this game goes in the books as zero points for Doncic and lowers his average), just gunning it really isn’t an option. It’s defend or lose. Tonight, they took up the challenge and kicked off a tough road trip with a win. We’ll see how long that adrenaline pumps before they hit their next defensive wall.
You can listen to our latest podcast episode in the player embedded below, and to make sure you don’t miss a single one moving forward, subscribe to the Mavs Moneyball podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, Pocketcasts, or Castbox.
You can check our our After Dark Recap podcasts, Spotify Live recordings, Moneyball Minute shows, and guest shows on the Mavs Moneyball Podcast feed. Please subscribe, rate, and review.