The Dallas Mavericks, coming off a heart-breaking and controversial 121-119 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday, will attempt to get back in the win column tonight, as they take on the Denver Nuggets in the Mile High city.
We're three games into the season, and there's a lot to be optimistic about when it comes to this Mavs team, whether it's the young star tandem of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis pairing well together, exactly like we thought they would, or the fact that Delon Wright is looking like a real bargain early on. However, despite all the optimism, there's still a lot of areas where this team can improve, and they know it.
"Obviously, we’ll want to look at the film and get better at those defensive sequences where they scored on us," said Porzingis after the Mavs were outscored 62-48 in the second half of their first loss of the season. "But I think that at the end of the day, all of the guys can say that we fought our asses off. I think this is a good game for us to just keep growing as a group.”
"It was a wild game from start to finish, a lot of crazy swings all over the place," said coach Rick Carlisle. "As the game went on, (the Blazers) became more consistent. We were just a little too volatile. Just comes down to that. We’re a team that’s got things to work on. Pretty simple.“
Team chemistry shouldn't be too high on Carlisle's list, given that the Mavs key pieces seem to meshing well together on the court. Doncic is averaging 29 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and two steals on 50-percent shooting from the field, 31-percent from three and 79-percent from the line. Doncic's 7-3 running mate, Porzingis, is complementing him well, averaging 26 points, six rebounds, three assists and three blocks while shooting 46 percent overall and 41 percent from three in 30 minutes per game.
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Can the Mavs overcome bleak odds, again?
Wright and Curry seem to be really good complementary players for Doncic and Porzingis as well. Wright had a monster game in New Orleans over the weekend, where he scored 20 points and ended up with five steals. Wright is averaging 11 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals in just 25 minutes per game. Wright is also sporting a sweet 4/1 assist-to-turnover ratio, which is, by far, the best on the team and something Carlisle has to be thrilled with so far.
Curry hasn't been a starter for the Mavs yet this season, but he's been as efficient as advertised, averaging 10 points in just 20 minutes per game, while shooting 48-percent overall and 46-percent from deep. As Carlisle continues to tinker with the starting lineup, you have to wonder what pairing Wright and Curry with Doncic and Porzingis might do for this team, as far as quick starts go. Believe it or not, those four have only played together in one game, so far, for just 3.4 minutes. In that short time, though, that lineup put up 16 points on 71-percent shooting, and was a plus-14.
Although it's early, we could definitely see a starting lineup of Doncic-Curry-Wright-Porzingis-Powell (once Powell returns from his hamstring injury -- most-likely this week) being the one that sticks for the majority of the season, leaving Jalen Brunson in charge of the 'Bench Mob,' featuring Justin Jackson, Tim Hardaway Jr., Maxi Kleber and Dorian Finney-Smith.
The Mavs are not a perfect basketball team, by any means, but they're still a lot of fun. Watching this team, so far, is a night-and-day difference from the product we all saw on the court over the last few years, and we should be reveling in that joy - especially the part about buying into Rick's familiar "fight our asses off'' credo echoed by KP. Dallas has some issues that need to be addressed with three-point shooting and interior defense, but until they're able to work out those kinks, good, ever-growing chemistry, overall talent, and 'fighting their asses off' should be enough to keep them in the playoff race as this season progresses.
The next stop in that journey is in Denver, against a 3-0 Nuggets team playing on its second night of a back-to-back. Let's find out just how fast this young team can grow.