Monday Donuts: A ‘Vs. Mavs All-Star’ Helps the Kings Scrape by Dallas

Steven Kilpatrick

DONUT 1: Kings 110, Mavs 106

I rolled out of bed with the flu for this?

This Sunday evening game at the AAC started out as a stinker and it stayed a stinker until the final 12 minutes. The Dallas Mavericks shot well early on but played spectators on defense. The Mavs were down by 20 points at half time courtesy of nearly 60-percent shooting from the Kings—and a lot of that on open threes or dunks where the Mavs just watched a guy get into the paint and get his shot. Once, Luka let his man do complex calculations before he shot a three, and made no effort to close out on the shot. 

The Mavs spent a lot of this week talking about how much better their defense is, and needs to be, and then came out like they believed none of that.

The Kings wound up ballooning their lead up to 24 points in the 3rd quarter before the Mavericks showed any life at all in the game. And then everything changed. The Mavs chipped away, outscoring the Kings 32-26 in the third, and closing things to 14 points. Then they went on a huge 16-2 run with the score at 106-90 and closed the game to 106-108 with just over 30 seconds to go. They forced Harrison Barnes into a bad late-clock shot. They took a time out, they got Luka into the paint, and he was fouled with about seven seconds to go.

Except, as happened too often vs. the Mavericks here, the refs somehow missed the foul on his elbow, and the foul the Mavs tried to take to send the Kings to the line. The Kings wound up getting an easy dunk on their last possession and that was that.

I’m sure Luka and the Mavericks will take comfort in the NBA’s 2-Minute Report when it confirms that Luka should’ve had two free throws on that last shot - something coach Rick Carlisle and the Mavs think is "clear.''

More on the game with Matthew Postins' game story - "No Blood, No Foul'' - checking in from the AAC here.

DONUT 2: Streaking Mavs

The Dallas Mavericks were 9-1 over their last 10 games headed into the New Orleans game. That’s something they hadn’t done since 2011. They put the cherry on top of that sundae with their 46 point domination of New Orleans.

It’s almost easy to forget that in the four games just before that 10-1 stretch, the Mavericks were 1-3, with losses to the struggling New York Knicks bookending things.

Leading up to the Kings game the Mavs were 10-1 in their last 11 and had won five in a row. Now, they’re 10-2 in their last 12, and they need to start a new streak.

As I write this, there are still 14 teams in the NBA without 10 wins total. So, as frustrating as their loss to the Kings might be, it’s still been a pretty amazing dozen-game stretch for the Dallas Mavericks.

DONUT 3: Back-to-backs

The Mavericks played in two back-to-back series this week. New Orleans and Minnesota on Tuesday and Wednesday, and then New Orleans again on Saturday, followed by the Kings on Sunday. From Sunday to Sunday that’s a total of five games in eight days.

The Mavericks should’ve been exhausted after a week like that, but they benefited from two things this week. One, they’re a young team, so they don’t have the miles on their legs that some teams do. Two, they blew out New Orleans to start both ends of the back-to-back, which allowed their starters to rest for the entire fourth quarter both games.

Carlisle agreed, saying, "We can’t make that excuse. I don’t think we can really make any excuse; we just gotta be more present physically to start that game.''

The Mavericks couldn’t finish their near-historic comeback attempt, but if their starters had been exhausted going into the fourth quarter, there’s a chance they don’t even within two in the final minute. I’m not big on moral victories against losing teams at home, especially since getting down 24 points is bad news in the first place.

Still, I’ll begrudgingly admit that a lot of teams would be happy with a 3-1 record over multiple back-to-backs in the same week.

DONUT 4: Jalen Brunson Stays Ready

Jalen Brunson doesn’t always find minutes in this guard-heavy lineup. This is Rick Carlisle's "Be Ready'' Mavs we're dealing with, so that's to be expected. But what does Jalen think of his usage? And is he underused? Stay tune for a DBcom examination of it all, coming soon.

DONUT 5: Luka, Technically You’re Right

Something to chew on, regarding Luka and a habit of his in need of correction. From our man Chuck Cooperstein: "As great as Luka is, the increasing whining about non-foul calls is not becoming. You can't complain on every non-call. When you do, refs simply tune you out. And as for respect from refs, he's shoots 9.3 free-throw attempts - fourth most in the NBA.

DONUT 6: By The Numbers

The Mavericks got their 16th win of the season in 2019-2020 thanks to that 46 point blowout of New Orleans on December 7, 2019. What you might not know, is that the Mavs got their 16th win LAST season vs. New Orleans as well. It just took nearly 20 days longer to get there.

The 2018-2019 Mavericks beat New Orleans 122-119 to improve their record to 16-17 (after losing six in a row leading up to the game).

We can’t talk about their 17th win of 2019-2020 just yet, but I’ll bet it comes way sooner than it did last year, which was December 30th.

DONUT 7: Tim Hardaway Jr. vs. Sacramento

When the rest of the Mavericks had nothing through most of the first three quarters, Tim Hardaway Jr. was the only guy keeping them anywhere NEAR the Kings. After a quiet week where he scored 33 points on 29 shots (and was 4-of-17 from three), he roared to life against Sacramento.

Tim Hardaway Jr. hit a career-high nine three-pointers on 10-of-13 from the floor and did everything he could to keep the Mavs in the game.

It wasn’t quite enough—but if they’d wrapped up the comeback, you can bet that he’d have been talking to Skin on the sideline after the game (instead of in the locker room after a shower).

DONUT 8: The “Vs. Mavs All-Stars”

Coming into the game Nemanja Bjelica had 10.6 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, and he’d shot 39.6 percent from the floor (30.2 percent from three) over his last 10 games.

Against the Mavs? 30 points on 18 shots, 4-of-7 from three-point range, seven rebounds, and four assists.

I’m not sure we can add him to the ranks of Julius Randle just yet, but in a game that the Mavericks lost by four points, Bjelica’s outlandish night played a huge role.

DONUT 9: Still in Good Standing

You might already know this, but heading into the game vs. Sacramento the Dallas Mavericks were 16-6 and had moved up to second place in the Western Conference. 22 games into a season is no time to throw a second place parade—but it’s definitely enough time into a season to know that this Mavericks team is for real

Even after they got 24 points down someone tweeted (since deleted, so I won’t quote him) that the Mavs were playing so well lately that they had to get down that big just to give themselves something to do. There are a lot of clinched jaws in Sacramento right now because of how close that prediction actually was.

The Clippers have since won another game, but Denver lost again, so, despite a brutal loss to the Kings, the Mavericks have fallen only as far as third in the West (although Houston is nipping at their heels after winning two in a row).

DONUT 10: OK, Let’s Praise Luka for a Second

I don’t do a lot of Luka praising, not the way everyone else does, because—well—everyone else does. I tend to fixate on the way he often gives up on defense. I rewatch each game because I'm a fan first, and know how much I miss while I'm caught up in the emotions of the moment. I can tell you ahead of time, that if I play a drinking game where I take a shot every time Luka fails to close out on a shooter or get his hands up on defense vs. the Kings—I will be dead before the end of my second viewing.

But, it’s because he’s such an amazing player that I notice these things so often. So, in the most backhanded way possible, I want to talk about how amazing it is that Luka passed Michael Jordan with his 19th (and counting) game of at least 20 points, 5 boards, and 5 assists.

Against the Kings, Luka finished with 27 points on 10-of-14 shooting, seven rebounds, and eight assists. 

"I mean, I don’t know,'' Luka said. "It’s a lot of stats going on. I think it’s a little bit too much stats. You can’t compare nobody to Michael Jordan. He’s one of a kind. Those are just stats.”

There’s an argument to be made that if he’d gotten the fouls he earned, some of those missed shots would’ve turned into made free throws. Given the nature of the game, maybe that means a Mavericks’ victory.

Instead, it’s a nice stat that happened in a lost cause—and it happened alongside six turnovers, a bad technical foul, and a lot of lapses on defense. Everybody drink.

DONUT 11: What’s On Tap?

The Mavericks have a few days off before they “host” the Detroit Pistons in Mexico City on Thursday night. Detroit is currently 9-14, but they’ve won three of their last four headed into their end-of-weekend game at New Orleans, so they’re on a minor upswing. This might not be as easy in reality as it looks on paper.

Andre Drummond remains one of the few true old-school centers in the league with 17.7 points, 17 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game. Blake Griffin was All-NBA last year and still knows how to play at a high level (though it’s not as consistent night-to-night).

The Pistons' size could be a problem early in the game—but the Mavs bench and offensive prowess should eventually give them the edge—unless they go into the second half down by 20.

DONUT 12: The Final Word

“They’re human’s you know? They make mistakes. I make mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes. It’s just sometimes they don’t see it, and they don’t call it.” - Luka Dončić on whether he feels he gets enough respect from the refs. ... while at the same time we can report he's getting plenty of respect from Sports Illustrated. See the good stuff here.

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