Mavs GAMEDAY Donuts: Issues & Answers & 'Corrections'
The NBA Bubble Re-Boot In Orlando sees the Dallas Mavs losing a pair before handling some issues and answers and 'corrections' - and now a GAMEDAY with the powerful Clippers ...
DONUT 1: ANOTHER CRACK Maybe still reeling from a Game 1 stunner - or maybe it was just me who was reeling - the Dallas Mavericks took another crack inside the NBA bubble on Sunday night when they grappled with the Phoenix Suns - and when they grappled themselves as well.
"We've got to make some corrections,'' Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said in previewing Game 2 in the bubble, "with our late-game execution on both ends.''
Final score: Suns 117, Mavs 115. And what issues and answers and "corrections'' did we witness? And ... is it OK that it actually took Rick and the fellas until Game 4 before they actually applied the "corrections'' in a victorious way?
Frankly, counting them up, before Tuesday's matinee OT win over the Kings, wasn't going to take too long.
DONUT 2: CLUTCH TIME In Friday's Game 1 of the re-boot, Dallas blew a seven-point lead in the final 45 seconds of regulation and lost in overtime to the Houston Rockets, 153-149.
RELATED: Rockets Break Mavs' Heart In OT
On Sunday against the Suns, more of the same.
“I've got to do way better than I played,'' Doncic vowed after Friday's loss. "I can’t be 1-for-9 (from the arc), so I got to be way better.”
The late-game mistakes, in many cases, occurred with him at the wheel. Thus, his vow to "be better.''
And against the Suns? Luka was once again boxscore-brilliant. But ... not good enough.
RELATED: Mavs Drop To 0-2 With Collapse Vs. Suns
And then came Game 3. More boxscore brilliance from Luka vs. the Kings. More drama, too, as this thing went down to the wire, as usual.
DONUT 3: THE CLIMB: The chance to move up from the No. 7 slot had already faded as the Mavs entered Sunday with 28 losses and with seven to play, three three teams in front of them all had just 24 losses.
Sunday night might've not offer a big chance to climb. But it offered a chance to fix some of the issues with Rick's "corrections.'' Indeed, following the win over Sacto, Rick indicated that the circumstances now dictate that Dallas not push anybody in terms of injuries (like Seth Curry and his sore leg) or minutes.
So in terms of "corrections,'' now, given the move-up odds, they'll use the final five seeding games as tune-ups for the NBA Playoffs.
DONUT 4: NOT 'CLUTCH,' BUT 'CLINCH!' We should've learned by now to not take for granted a playoff berth. And we do not.
Yes, it's true. The Mavs have an historically great offense ... and clutch record that is monumentally poor.
“It’s important,” Carlisle said of attaining the playoff berth. “We’re certainly happy about it. We certainly would have liked to have won the other night and gotten in on a win. But to be in and be assured of the seventh position is good ...
“It’s a very good accomplishment. The team has performed much better than people expected overall, so there’s something to feel good about there.''
DONUT 5: BY THE NUMBERS 2016. That was the last time. We're looking forward to not any time soon repeating even that mini-drought.
Maxi Kleber wasn't around for that, of course. But he was in the Wurzburg audience, as a kid, when in the summer of 2011 Dirk Nowitzki came home to celebrate in the streets, singing "We Are The Champions'' after the Dallas title.
This excitement, now, exists as well.
“Obviously everybody is super-excited that we clinched a playoff spot,” Kleber said. “At the same time we’re kind of sad that we lost the first two games because we should have won them. But the main focus for us is to get better, fix those problems and get ready for the playoffs, of course.”
DONUT 6: WINNING INDIVIDUAL MATCHUPS: Dallas boasts Luka and KP. And they've both been largely fantastic. But James Harden and Russell Westbrook of Houston were too much. Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton were trouble. And Fox and the Kings ... well, maybe they're on the verge of something.
For a time, frankly, Dallas' inability to control the Kings from the start was a disappointment.
And then came Luka Doncic, with maybe his finest game ... ever.
DONUT 7: FROM 'KAREEM' TO 'DEFENSE FIRST' What if the Mavs helpers aren't good enough?
Carlisle and company didn't have that problem on Tuesday, because Luka was the best player on the planet. His historic numbers - 34 points, 20 rebounds, 12 assists - only tell half of the story.
You know what tells the story? Doncic's two quotes from after the 114-110 OT win.
DONUT 8: QUOTABLE - OUR GAME "I think we played one of the worst games ever, and we won it." - Doncic, maybe his own harshest critic.
DONUT 9: QUOTABLE - MY GAME “Since I’ve been here I’ve been working on my defense, just getting better,'' - Doncic, who after filling the boxscore in an Elgin/Wilt/Kareem sort of way, was justifiably moved to talk about his ... defense.
DONUT 10: TOO WHINY? Porzingis pointed out publicly after Game 1 that the Mavs, as a group, complain too much to the refs, and that it's a bad look for the fans. Did Doncic and the rest gripe just a little bit less in Game 2? And even less in Game 3?
Are they heeding KP's words?
DONUT 11: WHAT'S ON TAP It's the Los Angeles Clippers, in a 5:30 p.m. CT tip in the bubble. It's a test.
Dallas is 1-2 and 41-29 and in seventh in the West and none of that matters much anymore.
The decision is going to be about whether the Mavs approach this as if it's a playoff tune-up (for Dallas vs. the Clippers in Round 1 of the NBA Playoffs), or as if it's a prove-something challenge, or as if it's a preseason exhibition with nothing at stake and therefore nothing to risk.
“We’re not going to take any risks medically,” Carlisle said. “We’re going to try to get ourselves ready to play in the playoffs, but we do want to win games here. We feel it’s real important to do that.”
DONUT 12: THE FINAL WORD "When your star player is doing that out there on the floor (playing hard on both ends) and leading by example, it shows a lot and it makes the guys around him play just as hard.” - Tim Hardaway Jr. on Luka Doncic.