The Dallas Mavericks fell to Real Madrid Tuesday night by a score of 127-123. Tim Hardaway Jr. led the way for Dallas with 21 points, while former Maverick great Facundo Campazzo paced Madrid with 20 of his own. The Mavericks’ preseason woes continue, as they finish 0-for-3 in their overseas odyssey.
The game opened with a mad flurry of three-point shooting from both sides. Real Madrid hit their first six attempts from distance, with Sergio Llull knocking down three within the game’s first few minutes. Luka Doncic, limited to just five minutes of playing time today with a left calf strain, matched Llull with a trio of triples himself. Madrid set the tone for a fast-paced game, and both teams spent the first period running, gunning, and scoring at will.
The sides continued to trade blows in the second period. Tim Hardaway Jr. started to cook a bit, but Madrid’s relentless pushing of the basketball helped them build a small lead. The Maverick offense sputtered in the middle of the frame, but they eventually found their footing and closed the half strong. Three consecutive threes in the final minutes from Hardaway and Grant Williams helped Dallas take a 71-65 lead into halftime.
Dallas came out of the locker room with great energy and built a double-digit lead within the third quarter’s first few minutes. Seth Curry replaced Doncic in the opening lineup and helped get the offense going. It was a really solid period of basketball for the Mavericks; they played with pace, hit shots, and competed on defense. But Madrid kept fighting and Dallas was unable to really pull away, having to settle for a 99-90 lead after three.
Real Madrid made a mini-run to open the fourth quarter, cutting Dallas’s lead to six after the first few minutes. But the Mavericks responded well, restoring a double-digit lead largely through strong minutes from Dante Exum. Madrid ended up making a serious push after Dallas emptied its bench, eventually taking a 120-118 lead with 1:30 left. Facundo Campazzo, in a revenge game, closed the door on the Mavericks by scoring seven clutch points and leading Real Madrid to its third win against an NBA opponent. It was a fun game despite the loss; here are three things we can take away from it.
The starting lineup is still somewhat TBD
Jason Kidd used his third different starting lineup tonight in as many preseason games. The ongoing injury to Kyrie Irving has muddied the waters a bit, and it isn’t clear at this time who will start next to a healthy Irving and Doncic. After starting Josh Green and Jaden Hardy in the second Abu Dhabi game, Kidd called upon Dante Exum and Derrick Jones Jr. against Madrid. Both Exum and Jones Jr. had some nice moments tonight, but it’s almost certain that neither player will be a regular season starter. Even so, it’s interesting that Kidd is apparently still tinkering. One thing to note is that Derrick Lively II has now started all three preseason games. It looks like he’s tightening his grasp on the opening-night starting center job. So, health permitting, we can pencil in Doncic, Irving, Grant Williams, and Lively as starters. Based on fit and preseason performance, Josh Green seems like the best candidate for that final spot. Olivier Maxence-Prosper isn’t ready, Hardaway Jr. doesn’t fit defensively, and Exum + Jones Jr. aren’t good enough. Green didn’t have his best shooting game tonight but he looked great in other areas. He’s earned a starting role.
The second unit impressed
79 (!!) bench points for the Mavericks tonight, led by Hardaway Jr.’s 21. The trio of Seth Curry, Dwight Powell, and Josh Green all looked great. And, though he started this game, Dante Exum may have been Dallas’s best player. All of these performances give you confidence that the Mavericks could have a strong bench mob this season. It’s also important to note that O-Max and Richuan Holmes didn’t get on the floor until the fourth quarter, and Jaden Hardy played limited minutes until then, too. I don’t want to read too much into that, but it could be an indication that these players are more on the fringes of the rotation than others who played heavier minutes tonight. Regardless, it’s obvious that the Mavericks’ depth is much improved from a season ago.
Should we panic over injuries to the Mavericks’ star duo?
Luka Doncic sustained a calf strain in practice yesterday, joining Kyrie Irving on the injury report two weeks before the season opener. How worried should we be about this? Well, in Doncic’s case, it’s hard for me to imagine that the Mavericks would allow him to play even five minutes if the calf injury was all that serious. I know they let him play because of how important this game was to him, but even so, it seems like they’d refuse to acquiesce if the strain was a big deal. Doncic’s preseason is likely over, and he’ll have a couple of weeks to heal up before opening night in San Antonio. The outlook on Irving seems somewhat murkier, as we haven’t received a ton of information regarding his groin injury. Jason Kidd said yesterday that Irving’s groin soreness is “still growing” and Marc Stein reported on the broadcast that there’s really no timetable yet for Irving to return. Groins can be tricky, so it’s something to keep an eye on. Luckily, the Mavericks superstar duo has time to get right. I wouldn’t panic at this juncture.