The story isn’t that the Dallas Mavericks beat the Brooklyn Nets Thursday night.
In the NBA, any team can lose on any given night. If a team catches another on an off night, things can go south quickly. That’s what happens in a long season. And if you need an example, just look at Sacramento’s 3-0 record against the Mavericks, meanwhile, if they play anyone else, they are 26-37.
That wasn’t an unnecessary shot at the Kings, though if you want to take it that way, be my guest. It was more so a highlight of how dynamic an NBA season is when circumstances are put into context. A team may be coming off of the front end of a back-to-back. Another team might be dealing with a key injury to a major rotation player. Or a team may be coming off of a two-week stretch that saw them play contender after contender. In years prior, losses, when put into these contexts, were known as schedule losses. But this season, with the condensed nature of the schedule, they are just another game.
So no, the story isn’t just that Dallas beat Brooklyn on Thursday night. Instead, the story is about how the Mavs beat the Nets on the front end of a back-to-back, with a Luka Doncic that – in the second half – was pedestrian at best. And it’s a win like Thursday night’s that can spur any Mavs fan to believe that, come the NBA playoffs, no one wants to see Dallas in the first round.
Dallas by the numbers:
In Thursday night’s 113-109 win, the Mavs had six players score in double-figures: Doncic (24), Tim Hardaway Jr. (23), Dorian Finney-Smith (17), Jalen Brunson (15), Dwight Powell (12), and Josh Richardson (10).
And though Doncic led the Mavs in scoring in the box score, he had a horrid second half. Brooklyn held Doncic to 2-11 from the field and five points after the scheduled halftime intermission. They threw a slew of different looks at him- from double-teams to defensive walls. Doncic struggled to score the ball, but he didn’t let it affect other aspects of his game. He remained active defensively. On the rebounding front, he grabbed a team-leading seven in the half. And he found his teammates for open looks, racking up five assists within the flow of the offense.
While Doncic struggled, the Mavs withstood a 45-point barrage by none other than Kyrie Irving. He scored 20 of his 45 in the second half, 15 of which came specifically in the fourth quarter.
Though Irving poured in the points, the Mavericks matched his offense basket-for-basket with guys like Finney-Smith and Hardaway Jr. It was like watching David versus Goliath in real-time. Doncic was David, armed with role players and a veteran head coach. Meanwhile, Brooklyn was Goliath, fitted with two of the best offensive players in the league and an aging but still effective Blake Griffin.
In the end, what Doncic had was enough to take down Goliath, even with him throwing his best punches (Irving’s 45 points).
Dallas won, so what?
Games like Thursday night show the dexterity with which the Mavericks can win games. It also shows that Dallas isn’t that far off from the NBA’s elite. On a night when Doncic struggled offensively, everyone else managed to pick up their share of the offensive load. And to beat Brooklyn, without Kristaps Porzingis or Maxi Kleber in the lineup, gives hope to the notion that there is another level this Mavs team can reach before it is all said and done.
The win wasn’t the story on Thursday night. It was that Dallas beat the favorite to come out of the Eastern Conference, without its entire roster, and without a great game from Doncic.
The book on the 2020-21 NBA season is nearly written at this point, but in that story, you can’t count Dallas out.
Feature image via Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports.