Knicks Top Mavs, 106-103, to Complete Season Sweep in Porzingis’ Return to MSG
On Thursday night, the Dallas Mavericks lost to the New York Knicks for the second time in less than a week, in a 106-103 loss at Madison Square Garden.
The Knicks now have three wins on the season, two of which have come at the expense of the Mavs.
Let that sink in for a moment.
With its two centerpiece players being 20 and 24, respectively, there was always going to be growing pains with this young Mavs team. But two losses to this Knicks team is inexcusable, egregious, confounding.
There are plenty of ways to investigate the core of the problems with this team, but after 11 games with a myriad of issues and two inexplicable losses, it all comes back down to one thing.
The Portland loss, in which the Mavs gave up a 16-point second-half lead, is looking worse by the day. The narrow win over the Magic feels more like a loss than a win.
Combine that with the two losses to New York and a drubbing at the hands of the Celtics, and it has become clear that this team has little to no identity outside of Luka Doncic, and that coach Rick Carlisle is at best struggling with the pieces he has at his disposal. Could he eventually figure it out? Sure. His resume says "yes.'' But it doesn’t look very encouraging at the moment.
Marcus Morris's game-winning three, which put the Knicks up for good 104-101 with 13.4 seconds left in the game, and the offensive possession that ensued, were a microcosm of everything that has been wrong with the Mavericks so far in 2019.
The Morris shot, while defended just fine by Maxi Kleber, was a haymaker that knocked this team on its heels, and apparently, out of its senses, because, on the ensuing possession, down three points with 13 seconds left to play, no timeouts, and two fouls to give, the Mavs went for a ... layup?
Unfortunately (and obviously) for the Mavericks, that strategy didn’t work out for them. Even more unfortunate for Dallas is that the final offensive possession was just one of many mistakes overseen by Carlisle throughout the game.
In truth, this game was going to be tough to win because of a number of his decisions from before the ball was even tipped.
To wit: Dwight Powell drawing the assignment of covering Julius Randle (17 points and 10 rebounds), Justin Jackson finishing the game as a DNP-coaches decision, the less-than-ideal rotation that forced Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis to the bench from the beginning of the fourth quarter until more than halfway through the period, after the pair ended the third quarter on a 9-2 run, and his utilization of his best shooter, Seth Curry, who only got five shots including a desperation heave to end the game. All of that falls on Carlisle.
"We had the ball at the end and it was a tough situation and we weren’t able to get a good look,'' Rick summarized.
Tim Hardaway Jr., by the way, took only two fewer three-point attempts than Porzingis and Curry combined, one of which came with the Mavericks down two with 39.7 seconds to play. He finished the game 2-of-7 from three.
Yes, there were plenty of things the players on the floor could have done to change the outcome of the game. If Porzingis is stronger on the block on his final shot, or if Luka looks for a better shot than his patented step-back just once, perhaps the Mavs escape with a narrow win.
None of that changes the fact that this game, like too many others, was poorly-managed.
As a result, the Mavericks wasted a 31-point, 11-assist, 10-rebound triple-double from Doncic (his fifth of the year), and a resurgent double-double performance from Porzingis in his Madison Square Garden homecoming.
“I wouldn’t say it affected me,” said Porzingis, who finished with 20 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks, of Knicks' fans abuse..” I heard it, of course. It was pretty loud. But I tried to play my game and stay focused and not think too much about what’s going on in the outside.”
Heck, even the good news is not good enough. Example: The Mavs are 2-3 when Doncic has a triple-double this season.
Considering the razor-thin margin for error that this team has as they attempt to fight for a backend playoff spot going forward, these two losses to the Knicks are going to loom large when the Mavericks hit the latter part of this season.
Dallas (6-5) will have an opportunity to get back on track this Saturday night when the Toronto Raptors come to the American Airlines Center, perhaps without big man Serge Ibaka, and their star point guard, Kyle Lowry.
“I think we played bad,” said Doncic, looking both back and forward. "I played bad, especially on the defensive end. I think we can do a way better job than we did today, and we just have to learn from this. It’s a long season.”