The Dallas Mavericks have won three consecutive games and are now over .500 at 5-4 after Saturday nights 112-98 home win over the Orlando Magic.
Despite not having three key players in Josh Richardson, Dorian Finney-Smith and Jalen Brunson due to Covid-19, the Mavs were still able to beat the Magic handily, thanks to a 36-point performance from Tim Hardaway Jr., a 29-point performance from Trey Burke and yet another triple-double from Luka Doncic. However, according to Rick Carlisle, there was one really important aspect of the game that flew under the radar — the defensive play of newcomer Wes Iwundu off the bench.
"Our bench really gave us a lift. Wes Iwundu did a tremendous job off the bench,” said head coach Rick Carlisle after the game.
“I don't know if he scored a basket, but he was a plus-17 and he chased (Terrence) Ross around, who is a deadly weapon for them. He deserves a lot of credit for this win."
In 32 minutes off the bench, Iwundu indeed didn’t score a basket as Carlisle alluded to, but he did grab six rebounds, two steals and had a handful of high-energy defensive plays that won’t show up in the box score. Terrence Ross is off to his best shooting and scoring start in his nine-year career for Orlando this season, averaging 18 points per game on 42% shooting from deep heading into last night’s game. Ross finished with 11 points on 3-of-12 shooting (0-of-4 from deep) with Iwundu hounding him all game long.
"For the Mavs' fans, I'm a hard worker,'" said Iwundu on our Mavs Step Back Podcast preseason exclusive interview.
"I go out there with the same mindset every game. You know — bring the energy. Do whatever is needed for my teammates.”
Iwundu definitely lived up to those words, as he brought high energy in every second of his first real opportunity of the season for the Mavs against his former team.
Said Wes: “(For me) it's just going out there, having fun, and just trying to get some wins. ... I'm always trying to get a stop, lock (someone) up.”
Check... and check. Next test? Monday night as New Orleans visits the ACC. Kristaps Porzingis might make his debut… But Dallas will still be shorthanded.
It’s hard to see where Iwundu’s minutes will come from once Josh Richardson, Jalen Brunson, Dorian Finney-Smith, and now, as we’ve just learned, Maxi Kleber as well, return from their quarantining periods, but if he keeps playing with the same tenacity we saw on Saturday night — or doing the ‘dirty work’ so to speak — it’s going to be very hard for Carlisle not to play him going forward. Iwundu has a big opportunity ahead of him.