Mavs GAMEDAY Donuts: Luka Targets 4th Seed In NBA Playoffs

Mike Fisher

Let's call it a "Why Not Us?'' mentality as in Dallas Mavs Donuts: Luka Doncic Targets 4th Seed In NBA Bubble Playoffs 

DONUT 1: WE ARE UNDERWAY! LeBron James and the Lakers looked ready in every way in their re-opening night win over the Clippers. And no, I don't want to play either of these teams in Round 1. And before that, Utah topped New Orleans and no, the Jazz winning doesn't help the Mavs' chase upward.

But two close games. "NBA on TNT.'' LeBron establishing that he's the best player in the world. Good to have it all back.

DONUT 2: LUKA FOR FOURTH Meanwhile, the Mavs are ready to play a little catch-up tonight ... maybe, if Luka Doncic has his way, a "catch-up'' all the way from the No. 7 slot in the West to a coveted No. 4 slot.

“We can get higher than we are,'' Doncic said. "We can get up to the 4 spot, and we’re looking forward to that. So we want to win all the games."

DONUT 3: THE SLATE OF EIGHT "All the games,'' for the Mavs (analyzed here), look like this:

July 31: vs. Houston Rockets at 8 p.m. CT (ESPN)

Aug. 2: vs. Phoenix Suns at 7 p.m. CT

Aug. 4: vs. Sacramento Kings at 12:30 p.m. CT

Aug. 6: vs. Los Angeles Clippers at 4:30 p.m. CT (TNT)

Aug. 8: vs. Milwaukee Bucks at 6:30 p.m. CT (ESPN)

Aug. 10: vs. Utah Jazz at 1 p.m. CT (NBATV)

Aug. 11: vs. Portland Trail Blazers at 3 p.m. CT

Aug. 13: vs. Phoenix Suns (TBD)

The head-to-head chances to move up against Houston and Utah are, obviously, key.

DONUT 4: TONIGHT'S THE NIGHT So, Dallas starts its season against the Houston Rockets tonight. ... and then the Mavs have seven more games after that to try and improve their playoff position.

RELATED: Your Mavs Bubble Primer Notebook

We'll visit with coach Rick Carlisle this afternoon via Zoom and have a GAMEDAY update for you this afternoon, too, all leading up to tipoff in the bubble. ... with the focus on the Rockets - just like the Mavs' focus has been. For a week.

“We’ve been working on it for about a week, studying them,” Doncic said. “They have two amazing players (James Harden and Russell Westbrook) and we’re going to have to stop them.”

DONUT 5: QUOTABLE "The team looks great. They’re excited that we’ve got a real game (to)night. We have handled this (long layoff) as a team really good. Everybody is positive and enjoying time with each other.” - JJ Barea.

DONUT 6: BY THE NUMBERS Dallas is third (at 116.4) in the NBA in scoring. Tonight's foe, the Rockets. are second in the league in scoring (118.1).

Oh, and Houston leads the NBA in 3-pointers attempted (44.3). And Dallas is second with 41.5 per game.

DONUT 7: OFF THE COURT Our Bri Amaranthus is discussing the SI story with allegations of Mavs misconduct here in DBcom Boards.

As I've said on social media and on the radio: I've spoken with many of the people involved, on both sides - and I did so before the SI expose was published. And I believe that both the alleged victim and the alleged perpetrator deserve to be listened to.

We will continue to pursue the truth in a responsible manner.

DONUT 8: BULL IN A CHINA SHOP I have characterized NFL owners' thoughts on having a 2020 season as "bulls in a china shop.'' I have characterized the NBA's push to return to the floor as something more "progressive'' than that.

But Rick Carlisle concedes to the "push.''

“It always felt like everyone really wanted to re-start the season,” Carlisle said to the DFW media via Zoom after Thursday’s practice. “In my capacity as the president of the (National Basketball) Coaches Association, I was in a lot of discussions with the league during the hiatus, with people from the league during the hiatus. They did it the right way.

“They took a lot of time, they were very methodical, they were very thoughtful, they thought of as many of the scenarios as they could possibly think of, and at the same time left open the fact that there would be things that were going to have to make this whole situation fluid. And it’s been very fluid. Everyone has adjusted (and) adapted.”

DONUT 9: MORE THAN TALENT Kristaps Porzingis on Thursday offered a sharp point about what should drive Dallas.

"I think it’s just more of us maybe not leaning as much on our talent,” Porzingis said. “A lot of times in situations in games, we just lean on our talent. We know we’re going to be able to do certain things just because we can score the ball. I think we’ve got to catch ourselves in those moments and just come out ready.” 

Translation (to me, anyway): "Talent'' isn't enough - because all of the contenders have at least that.

DONUT 10: NO TIME TO WASTE Talk about "clutch'' and "crunch time'' ... there are only eight games! It's like an eight-game season! ...

“This eight-game set, these games are all super meaningful,” Carlisle said. “This isn’t like at the beginning of an 82-game season where there’s a tendency for everybody to kind of ease into it.''

Nope. No "easing.'' Win. Win. Win. It's an NBA bubble ... with a pressure cooker inside.

DONUT 11: WHAT'S ON TAP The Mavs (40-27) are currently sitting seventh in the Western Conference standings, and are just one-and-a-half games behind Houston (40-24) and the Oklahoma City Thunder (40-27). They’re also trailing the No. 4-seeded Jazz (42-23), who opened the re-boot of their season on Thursday with that aforementioned 106-104 win over the Pelicans.

So Thursday didn't favor the Mavs. But - I'm gonna say it again - by God, even with the wrong team winning, it was good to have basketball back!

DONUT 12: THE FINAL WORD “Every game has a high meaning, so a good start is something that we would love to have. And we’ve worked hard and we feel we’ve got a chance to do it.” - Mavs coach Rick Carlisle on Dallas vs. Houston ... and beyond.

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