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3 thoughts after the Dallas Mavericks pull away from the San Antonio Spurs, 126-119

An incredible first game of the season should serve to reignite the Dallas-San Antonio rivalry

Dallas Mavericks v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Dallas Mavericks (1-0) defeated the San Antonio Spurs on the road Wednesday night, winning 126-119. Luka Doncic led an incredible team effort with a triple double, scoring 33 points, grabbing 14 rebounds, and dishing out 10 assists. Devin Vassell led the Spurs with 23 points. Rookie phenom Victor Wembanyama scored 15 points, corralled five rebounds, along with two assists, two steals, and a block.

Dallas head coach Jason Kidd opted for some trickery, playing a lineup that didn’t see any time together, starting Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving, Grant Williams, Derrick Jones Jr., and Maxi Kleber. The defensive-themed group was awful early, giving up drives and threes, forcing an early timeout with Dallas down 16-7 after just four minutes. The Dallas offense woke up some, with Tim Hardaway giving the Mavericks 12 points off the bench, but the defense was nowhere to be found. Dallas trailed 43-36 after twelve minutes of action.

After a slow start offensively, Dallas scored consistently in the second quarter. Kyrie Irving in particular found his flow after a rough first period. Irving scored on multiple tough looks at the rim to help Dallas tie the game at 56 with just over three minutes in the half. San Antonio scored 12 straight in response. Dallas then closed the half on an 8-0 run led by Grant Williams. The Mavericks trailed 68-64 at halftime.

Dereck Lively made his presence felt after getting the start in the second half. His effort on both ends contributed to Dallas finally taking the lead on a put-back near the eight-minute mark. With Victor Wembanyama picking up his fourth foul, Dallas had a chance to extend the lead, but a feisty Spurs team refused to let up. Two threes from Josh Green and one from Maxi Kleber helped power Dallas to a nice run to end the quarter. Dallas entered the final frame up 96-91.

Of course, the Spurs were not about to lay down on opening night and charged right back to start the final frame to tie the game then take the lead. Fans were treated to fantastically fun basketball, with Irving making tough shots, Wembanyama sticking wing threes, and Lively getting a put back dunk. The high-scoring affair continued with the teams trading baskets throughout the quarter. A pair of Irving buckets assisted by Doncic gave the Mavericks a four-point lead with under 90 seconds left. Doncic nailed a 3-pointer with 30 seconds to go to effectively end the game. Dallas wins their first game of the season, 126-119.

Dereck Lively was absolutely awesome

We’ll be covering this more, but the first-round rookie from Duke played an astoundingly good basketball game. With all the attention on Victor Wembanyama, Lively came in off the bench and did his job so well that he took the starting spot in the second half. His connection with Luka on offense is one thing (he scored more points in his first game with the Mavericks than at any point at Duke), but he’s just so stout on defense. Considering his fouling issues at Duke, it was fair to be concerned about foul trouble on the NBA level but thus far, he’s been under control and in the right place. We’ve talked about it since Summer League and throughout the preseason, but let’s say it for anyone else who hasn’t been paying attention: the Dallas Mavericks got a good one.

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The defense is a work in progress and must be better

The Spurs made a lot of tough looks throughout the game, but Dallas gave them a free path to the rim in the first half. Giving up 68 points, including 43 in the first, is not what anyone wanted to see. Part of that was the starting lineup, which looked like it had never shared the floor together before. But it was also all perimeter defenders being a maddening mix of too aggressive on some closeouts and too passive on others. It should get better with time, defense takes a lot of continuous work and trust in teammates, but as a first effort, Dallas didn’t perform very well as we might have liked.

The Mavericks pushed the ball early and often

Understanding that this soon after the game I have no data to back this, but it felt like Dallas pushed the ball more often throughout the game. In the first quarter, Doncic sprinted up the floor with the ball, getting the Mavericks into a scoring position. After makes Dallas made concerted efforts to get the ball up the floor and into the offense earlier. The game felt more frenetic and compared to some of the dribble and analyze ball we’ve seen in years past, this game moved and was really fun. What an awesome game, I can’t wait for more this season.

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