The Dallas Mavericks defeated the San Antonio Spurs by a score of 142-116 on Thursday night in Dallas, the team’s first game after the lengthy All-Star break. Luka Doncic led the way with 28 points, seven rebounds, and 10 assists for Dallas. Malaki Branham paced the Spurs with 23 points.
The Spurs came into tonight’s matchup having lost their last 14 games. The Mavericks, riding a three-game losing streak of their own, desperately needed to take care of business against a lesser opponent. Thankfully, they were able to do just that.
Dallas opened the first quarter a bit lackadaisically, looking like a team fresh off the All-Star break. Luka Doncic picked up a technical after complaining about a no call and failing to get back on defense. The Mavericks found some success running in transition, and after going back-and-forth with San Antonio for a while, they were able to finish the quarter strong with a 34-26 lead.
The Spurs came out firing from deep in the second quarter, hitting 3 threes in the first few minutes. A fun bench unit from Dallas kept the lead steady, and Justin Holiday gave them some really great minutes. The newest Maverick played tenacious defense, stole the ball twice, and hit his only three point attempt in the frame. Just when it seemed like the Mavericks might pull away and build a large lead, the Spurs went on a run and cut the deficit to just four with about four minutes to go. But Dallas, led by Doncic and Kyrie Irving, was able to calm things down and take a 74-63 lead into the locker room.
Dallas continued to score at will in the third quarter, abusing the atrocious Spurs defense and getting whatever they wanted. Unfortunately, the Mavericks’ own suspect defense prevented them from swelling the lead, and San Antonio was able to hang around. Amazingly, San Antonio won the quarter and whittled the deficit down to single digits at 90-99 entering the fourth.
At long last, the Mavericks busted the game wide open in the fourth quarter. Irving dazzled, Holiday went supernova, and the Spurs ran out of juice. Dallas completely annihilated San Antonio in the final frame, winning the quarter by 17 and the game by 26. It was a much needed victory; hopefully, this jump starts a run to finish off the regular season. Here are three observations from tonight’s win.
Justin Holiday ignited the Dallas bench
More often than not, guys signed from the buyout market don’t make much of an impact. There’s a reason why their previous teams chose to part ways with them. When Justin Holiday was signed, I didn’t expect him to contribute a whole lot. But he’s long, rangy, and capable of playing good and hitting open threes. And that’s exactly what he did tonight.
Holiday hit five threes, grabbed two steals, and looked like the best perimeter defender on the team. If he can turn in performances even close to this and help eliminate the Theo Pinson/Frank Ntilikina minutes, Nico Harrison will look like a genius. Holiday’s play extended to the entire Maverick second unit: Tim Hardaway Jr. had a great game with 22 points and Christian Wood chipped in 16 of his own.
The Doncic/Irving fit will be juuuuust fine
Both Maverick superstars were brilliant tonight, combining for 51 points and 16 assists (with just two turnovers) and going a combined 16-of-29 from the floor. They both played just 30 minutes. It was a little bit of “your turn, my turn” tonight, but the Mavericks offense was firing on all cylinders.
The next step for the star duo will be figuring out how to creatively play off each other. But, regardless, the fit on offense is nothing to be concerned about.
Defense is still a concern
Apart from the fourth quarter when Dallas took over the game, the lowly Spurs had their way with the Mavericks defense. They scored 90 through three quarters, shot above 50% for the game, and had 66 points in the paint. Dallas is fortunate that the San Antonio defense is even worse than their own, because the defensive effort was not good enough for a large chunk of this game.
Maxi Kleber cannot return fast enough. The Mavericks desperately need his rim protection and switch-ability. Until then, they must compete harder on the defensive end.
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