DALLAS - Dallas Mavericks Donuts for Thursday after the Luke-led survival of a "trap game'' that shouldn't have been ...
DONUT 1: MOVING ON The loss to Portland is in the rear-view mirror and the loss to the Lakers needs to be. But if we - and the Dallas Mavericks themselves - are to learn from the past week, it can’t just be about back-pats for Sunday’s success at Cleveland. ... and certainly not for Wednesday's success against Orlando, a team that made a game at the AAC all-too-interesting before the Magic succumbed to the brilliance of Luka Doncic, 107-106. (Matt Galatzan's gamer is here.)
Luka Magic > Orlando Magic, indeed.
DONUT 2: BACK-PATS! Kudos are due the Mavs, of course, for the road win over the Cavs. Cleveland was handed its first home loss and, combined with this victory, the Mavs advanced to 5-2 on the season.
This is Dallas' best start since the 2010 season. Back-pats, I tell you!
DONUT 3: QUOTABLE Luka Doncic "is one of the best players on the planet, so nothing he does surprises me.” - Coach Rick Carlisle.
DONUT 4: LUKA MAGIC Doncic finished with 27 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, and scored 12 of the 32 points Dallas amassed in its third-quarter comeback from a "trap'' provided by an Orlando team that was playing on the second night of a road back-to-back and saddled with a season-long inability to get to 100 points.
But Luka didn't want all the credit.
DONUT 5: JJB SPARK PLUG “It’s amazing to see,” said Doncic of J.J. Barea's season debut following last year's Achilles tear and rehab. “He’s been working hard, playing off to the side. ... I think he won the game for us.”
Valid enough. JJB, age 35, totaled 11 points - all of them in a second-quarter pile, including a trio of 3's, plus some nifty passing ... all of it sort of by design, part of the Bench Mob that's been so valuable this season.
“The way we started with low energy, it’s my job to go out and find energy,” Barea said. “That’s always been my job. When I go out there I like to feel the team believes in me and has confidence in me.”
Worth noting: Barea hadn't played in a game yet, but on Wednesday morning engaged in his own private workout, ensuring conditioning readiness ... just in case.
Said Rick: “He did a full workout this morning at the practice facility by himself to keep pushing his conditioning, stepped out there and had an impact just by playing with heart and enthusiasm.''
The AAC crowd was very much into JJB, and inspired, too, by "Seats for Soldiers'' Night. Oh, by the way, Dallas is now 13-2 for these events. Read more here.
DONUT 6: STOPS The Mavs got two stops at the end by drawing a pair of charges on Aaron Gordon, but Rick is nevertheless worried about his D.
“I’m more concerned that our defense is 19th or 20,” he said. “That’s really what my focus is. When we put the roster together, we knew we had a lot of skilled guys.
“But the question was going to be, ‘Hey, how do we turn this into a top-10 defensive team?'''
The answers, I can assure you, will begin in practice today, with the coach emphasizing that end of the floor. Maybe tell everybody, "Be more like Dorian Finney-Smith!'' will do it?
DONUT 7: WHAT COULD’VE BEEN In their two losses, the Mavs lost leads of 19 and 15 points.
Is that due to a talent deficit A fluke? A lack of maturity?
That latter concept is the analysis from Kristaps Porzingis, and I think I buy it. But Dallas will also be an even better team when KP is a better player.
“We’re not there yet offensively,” said Porzingis, who was only 4-of-14 from the field for 10 points (to go with his eight rebounds). “A big part of it is I can’t really find a rhythm yet.''
I don't want to complain about a guy who is re-entering play after 19 months off ... and who is averaging 19 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two blocks per game.
I just want to agree with him that he can be better. And I will defer to Carlisle, who insisted after the Magic game, “I just gotta get him better shots.”
But I'm also going to go old-school on you: Where is the easiest place for a 7-3 guy to be impactful? Three-pointers are awesome, but the answer to that question is never going to change. (See above.)
DONUT 8: GROWING UP A big help to KP? He's in the right environment. Growing up in the NBA can be a challenge. The Mavs seem to be blessed with “kids” who like one another and as Jason Kidd advises here, that’s a good start to avoiding the early 1990’s fate of the Three J’s.
DONUT 9: BY THE NUMBERS DBcom has before referred to Luka as “Euro-Bron” and after the head-to-head? Nobody is much arguing with the comparison any more. In that Friday classic, Doncic and LeBron James became the youngest and oldest players in NBA history to put up a 30-10-15 ... and - obviously - this history was made as they each did it in the same game!
“Bad MF’ers,” indeed. And after the win over Orlando, Luka is at 26.7 points, (8th in the NBA), 9.9 rebounds (13th) and 9.1 assists (third in the NBA).
This is what the start of an MVP campaign looks like.
DONUT 10: AN ENCOURAGING STAT Like me, you probably entered this Mavs season thinking they might again be a poor rebounding team ... and worrying that even at 7-3, KP might not be much of a solution.
Yet ... the Mavs out-rebounded the Lakers 61-41. And then comes a Boban appearance in Cleveland, he and KP playing together, Porzingis scoring 18 points and with nine rebounds (and a season-high six blocked shots) and Marjanovic with 12 points and eight boards. And now against Orlando, Dallas stays in the rebounding competition, getting nipped 44-43, despite the excellent talent in that department from Vucevic and Issac.
Rick can worry about his defense, and justifiably. But ... For a team that had rebounding as one of its projected biggest weaknesses ... well, this shows the ability to avoid being lousy in this department exists inside this club, somewhere.
DONUT 11: MAVS STEP BACK Mark Cuban says it’s the best Mavs podcast in the land, and yeah, we’re very proud of it. The latest edition of Mavs Step back?
Dalton Trigg (fresh off breaking news involving Dennis Smith Jr. and the Knicks' visit to Dallas on Friday) and Matt Galatzan kick it around.
Kick it with ‘em! ... And check out the Step Back's recent visit with DSJ above!
DONUT 12: THE FINAL WORD "His ability to make plays not only for himself, for his teammates and to play just for the pure love of the game, it’s a beautiful thing to watch.” - LeBron on Luka.