Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic Lead Dallas Mavs Rally to Sweep Mini-Series vs. Sacramento Kings

Kyrie Irving scored 14 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter to help the Mavs defeat the Kings after trailing by 15 points.
Mar 29, 2024; Sacramento, California, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving (11) dribbles the
Mar 29, 2024; Sacramento, California, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving (11) dribbles the / Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

SACRAMENTO — To complete a two-game mini-series, the Dallas Mavericks (44-29) rallied back from a 15-point deficit to defeat the Sacramento Kings (42-31) with a final score of 107-103. After achieving victories in both games, the Mavs finish the season series with the Kings in a 2-2 tie. The Mavs have now won 10 of their last 11 games.

“Just playing great team basketball. We made some moves at the trade deadline. I think our defense is getting better and better every game," Mavs superstar Luka Donic said. "We’re just having fun out there. Today was a rough game for us. But to win back to back games in Sac, it’s difficult. I think we did a great job with that.”

During Tuesday's matchup, the Mavs won 132-96. Due to the lopsided score, Doncic did not play in the fourth quarter, recording 28 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists. Sacramento came out aggressively, blitzing in the rematch to get the ball out of his hands early and focusing on hunting him on the other end to make him work defensively.

Mar 29, 2024; Sacramento, California, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) dribbles the ball
Mar 29, 2024; Sacramento, California, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) dribbles the ball / Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

In the rematch, Kyrie Irving led the Mavs in scoring with 30 points. Doncic wasn't far behind with 26 points,12 assists and nine rebounds into the mix. Dereck Lively II was the team's only other double-figure scorer, totaling 12 points and hauling in nine rebounds. Dallas shot 15-35 (42.9%) from beyond the arc, but outside of Doncic and Irving, the team went 8-22 (36.4%).

De'Aaron Fox led the Kings with 23 points, six rebounds, and five assists on the night. Harrison Barnes added 20 points and six rebounds as the Kings' only other 20-point scorer. Sacramento also received a triple-double from Domantas Sabonis, who racked up 13 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists. The Kings received a 16-point and six-rebound effort from Keon Ellis, who made four 3-pointers. Keegan Murray provided another 12 points and seven boards.

After trailing 7-0 to start the game, the Mavs faced a deficit as significant as 13 points in the first quarter. Sacramento held a 34-26 lead at the end of the opening period and stayed in front for much of the game. Dallas had to overcome playing from behind on the road against a team with two days off to adjust after a loss.

The Kings continued aggressively blitzing Doncic in pick-and-roll when the Mavs put Domantas Sabonis into the action. Dallas experienced mixed results in these situations and trailed for the first quarter. Dante Exum was deployed as a third ball handler next to Doncic and Irving for a stretch to help provide more off-the-dribble creation before Doncic checked out of the game.

With a game plan predicated on shrinking the floor by designating weak shooters to be given space on the perimeter to shoot, the Kings made Dallas pay early, with Keon Ellis converting on a pair of 3-pointers. Sacramento had various role players executing tough plays, including Malik Monk and Davion Mitchell.

It was a struggle for the Mavs to contain Fox. He made the Mavs pay numerous times in the second quarter to continue the Kings' momentum, with multiple made shots pushing Sacramento up by 15 — the game's largest lead. Dallas needed to achieve defensive stops, so they deployed a combination of Derrick Jones Jr., Maxi Kleber, and Dereck Lively II around Doncic and Irving to generate those results.

As the first half played out, the Kings utilized a defensive approach, utilizing late doubles against Doncic while blitzing Irving more. Dallas deployed more of the two-man game with Doncic and Irving as a counter, but the Mavs struggled to get defensive stops, trailing 60-51 at the break.

The Mavs came within six points after Washington, who missed all five 3-point attempts in the first half, ended his drought with an above-the-break 3-pointer. Sacramento resumed blitzing Doncic to get the ball out of his hands, making role-player shooting all the more important.

“We know they’re going to double me and Kai a lot of times. So that’s just the trust we have. The whole team," Doncic said. "So that shows their team is great. I mean, we’re having fun out there, but I think we played terribly today, and we still got the win. Kai was amazing. I think we missed a lot of open shots, and we still got a win, which is amazing.”

The Mavs countered by playing Doncic more off the elbow in a Horns set. He used a ball screen from the other "big" in the set to drive right and get into a turnaround jumper, bringing the Mavs within three points early in the third quarter.

Dallas deployed Exum alongside Doncic and Irving again midway through the third quarter to counter the Kings' aggressive defensive approaches. The Mavs used guard-guard screens more frequently to create more favorable driving lanes. Regardless of approach, the Mavs struggled to create momentum consistently.

The Kings succeeded by pushing the pace in live ball change-of-possession situations and using Sabonis to attack the paint in the half-court. By the end of the third period, the Kings had already scored 26 fastbreak points, compared to five by the Mavs.

After the Mavs had Doncic rotated early as the low defender, the Kings made a spray-out pass to Kessler Edwards for a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer that he made. Doncic then turned it over before Fox finished an alley-oop layup in a transition 2-on-1. Sacramento was up 80-68 late in the third period as a result of the sequence.

Entering the fourth quarter, the Mavs trailed 82-73 and opted to keep Doncic on the court to begin the period before ultimately outscoring Sacramento by a 34-21 margin in the frame. However, the Kings withstood a sequence of back-to-back 3-pointers from the Slovenian superstar, including one catch-and-shoot and another being a step-back, with Dallas not achieving defensive stops.

Irving took matters into his own hands to rally the Mavs back while backed up by the defense getting stops. An early baseline rim attack created a trip to the free throw line. Then he used a transition pull-up from deep to pull Dallas within three points with 7:38 remaining in regulation.

Using a 14-3 run, the Mavs achieved their first lead of the game after going up 94-92 because Irving made two of three free throws after being fouled on a corner jumper. Dallas heated from the perimeter during this stretch, including four consecutive 3-pointers.

“We’re very happy that we’ve got two of the best in the world,” Kidd said of Irving and Doncic. “To not just be shot-makers, but to create shots for others. They’re two great quarterbacks who are very unselfish. They understand the moment, the time and what needs to be done.”

After a series of lead changes and ties, the Mavs — the NBA's leader in clutch winning percentage entering the game — were tasked with grinding out another close victory. Irving's aggressive scoring focus was instrumental in guiding Dallas throughout this stretch, scoring 14 points in the fourth quarter. He made no shortage of tough plays, including off-the-dribble jumpers and a finish involving switching hands.

“I just loved the way we came to the bench after he missed those two shots, and we’re just looking at each other, like, ‘We’re gonna be fine,’" Irving said. “Those are the mature moments that you don’t forget, when you’re looking at your brothers eye-to-eye, people that are in the game, people that aren’t in the game, and they’re assuring you, ‘Hey, we’ve got this.’ We felt that pretty much all night."

Sacramento had frequently dared Exum to shoot by leaving him open from the perimeter. He finally made the Kings pay by hitting a wide-open look with 28.1 seconds left in regulation, putting the Mavs up 106-103. During an earlier possession, he turned down an open 3-pointer to attack the rim and missed, but he knew he had to make the defense pay for their approach.

“The biggest thing is everyone’s telling me: keep shooting, keep shooting,” Exum said. “(When I’m) open like that the whole game, they (the shots) are going to go up. Being on a team with Luka and Kai, late game, important game. Obviously, I’m shooting three shots. And I come to the bench, and the two are the ones telling me: shoot the next one, shoot the next one.”

A pivotal backcourt violation by Sacramento gave Dallas possession with 8.6 seconds remaining on the clock. Doncic split a pair of free throws to ice the game before closing out the game.

Looking ahead, the Mavs will play the Houston Rockets on Sunday, continuing a five-game road trip.


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Grant Afseth

GRANT AFSETH

Grant Afseth is a Dallas Mavericks reporter for MavericksGameday.com and an NBA reporter for NBA Analysis Network. He previously covered the Indiana Pacers and NBA for CNHI's Kokomo Tribune and various NBA teams for USA TODAY Sports Media Group. Follow him on Twitter (@grantafseth), Facebook (@grantgafseth), and YouTube (@grantafseth). You can reach Grant at grantafseth35@gmail.com.