DALLAS - The Dallas Mavericks crushed the Minnesota Timberwolves 127-122 at home on Monday to the delight of the the first fans at the American Airlines Center for an NBA game in almost a calendar year.
Whether it was the normalcy of the fan energy, the momentum of the win over Golden State on Saturday, or the boost from owner Mark Cuban's recent pregame speech ... The Mavs' efficiency and spirit soared.
It happened from the start - Dallas opened the game with 43 points for their highest-scoring quarter of the season - and continued throughout.
Kristaps Porzingis put on a show early on, scoring 15 of Mavs first 25 points, tying his highest in a quarter this season. On the other end, Porzingis swatted his way to five blocks, making him the first Mavs player with 15 points and five blocks in a half over the last 25 seasons.
Porzingis finished with 27 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and six blocks. KP tied Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Bradley for the most games in Mavs franchise history with four games of 20-plus points, 10-plus boards, and five-plus blocks. Oh, and KP won the Heavyweight Belt for being the top defensive player in a win.
The Mavs shot 55% from the field and looked to be (finally) jelling, after missing an NBA-high 41 player-games due to the health and safety protocols.
Said coach Rick Carlisle of Porzingis: “It’s clear that as each game goes on, everything is getting better and more the way he wants it and more the way we want it.”
Luka Doncic extended his consecutive games of scoring 25 or more points to 11, totaling 26 points to go with eight rebounds and five assists. Tim Hardaway Jr. continued his tear off the bench, adding 24 points and connecting on 4-of-9 shots from deep.
Minnesota's Malik Beasley willed his way to make the game interesting, scoring 22 points on 7-for-7 shooting in the fourth quarter, but the Mavs never lost their lead vs. the Timberwolves. Dallas' largest lead was 25 points.
It'd be hard to pick who was smiling bigger: this Dallas squad that pulled out the win or the Mavs fan that won free Whataburgers for a year by tossing a giant french fry into the box.
A handful of fans were in attendance - all of the 1,500 people before COVID-19 vaccinated essential workers (medical professionals, police officers, food services, firefighters.) At halftime, the Mavs played a beautiful tribute to the essential workers, with players and former players from the 2011 championship team like the legendary Dirk Nowitzki, JJ Barea, and more, thanking the frontline workers.
“It was amazing,” said Hardaway. "The atmosphere was obviously better. You just hear crickets when there’s nobody in there.”
Last in the Western Conference, this marks Minnesota's 11th loss in 14 games. Karl-Anthony Towns has missed 13 games since testing positive for COVID in mid-January.
Next, the 11-14 Mavs continue their home stand and host the Atlanta Hawks and star Trae Young on Wednesday night at 6:30pm CT.
“Right now, we got to do whatever we can to win games,” Carlisle said. “It’s certainly not always going to be pretty. But it’s important to win them and learn and move on and get better. Each day, we hope that we’re another step closer to being back to the team that we want to be.”