The Dallas Mavericks defeated the Sacramento Kings 122-114 in the first night of a back-to-back series in Sacramento. Teams rarely win both games of a two-game series so winning the first game is very helpful, especially since Luka Doncic is expected to return tomorrow. The Mavericks moved the ball incredibly well and ran all game. Most importantly other than the win, the Mavericks played a fun brand of basketball. The postseason is a grind, so being able to grind is an important part of being a contender. But prolonged grind over the course of entire seasons turns into wear.
The Mavericks came out and dominated early, scoring 45 points in the first quarter and 74 at the half. Despite some wonky line ups and choices in the second half, Dallas held on at the end to win their third straight road game.
Here are four observations from the game:
The Mavericks getting off on the right foot
For the second consecutive game, the Mavericks scored over 40 points in the first quarter. The Mavericks have gotten off to a lot of fast offensive starts this year because of Doncic coming out hot. But they have not consistently come out attacking with the same nerve they have over the last two games. This is a fantastic development for the Mavericks long term potential.
The Mavericks have a designated free throw shooter
Kyrie Irving has a litany of basketball talents. One of them is he is a truly elite free throw shooter. The Mavericks have either lost or had to sweat more than they should, in many close games this season because they had no one to make late game free throws. That is no longer the case, and it is a welcome change. Free throws are the one basketball skill that remains the same from middle school to the NBA. That makes it difficult for fans to understand how NBA players struggle to make free throws.
This has made the Mavericks struggles in this area particularly frustrating. Irving was 12-of-12 from the free throw line tonight including making the final two free throws of the evening. It is not the flashiest of his skills, but it is one of the most valuable.
The Mavericks have become much more balanced
Reggie Bullock has returned to being a prolific shooter. Christian Wood remains an incredibly large microwave. JaVale McGee even showed signs of life with 11 points and nine rebounds in a little less than 19 minutes. All in all, the Mavericks had seven players score in double figures plus Dwight Powell chipped in with nine points.
There has long been a debate regarding how much Doncic’s ball dominance impacts other players. There have been plenty of times where Doncic’s steady hand has been missed. There has also simply been a different level of dynamism over the last few games. The Mavericks move more than they have in any recent years. This has clearly been infectious. The Mavericks will have to work to balance this diversified offense with properly exploiting Doncic and Irving’s individual brilliance.
Overall, the Mavericks have now won their last three games without Doncic after losing their first seven. The vibes are no longer maculate.
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