At the midway point of the NBA season, the Dallas Mavericks’ goals for the second half of the NBA year, at least to Luka Doncic, are simple.
Dallas wants to win and do more in the second half of the season, aiming to best the 22-19 record the team accumulated through the first 41 games.
“It’s been a different season,” Doncic said. “We started a little slow. I think we picked up now… There are going to be ups and downs. And we just have to stay consistent.
“We want a better record. Winning games. We’ve been playing very good the last couple of games, and that’s how we got to play.”
The inconsistent Mavericks have transformed into a team that is worth the price of admission. Amidst the injuries and health and safety protocols, Dallas is 7-3 in the last 10 games.
Head coach Jason Kidd has improved the defense on a team full of players who were not defensive stoppers last season. That, in itself, is an achievement.
In terms of defensive rating, Dallas sits seventh in the league at 107.3. Opponents are also having a tough time scoring in the paint, as Dallas only gives up 45 points around the basket. Good enough for 12th in the league, ahead of teams such as the Phoenix Suns, Chicago Bulls and Brooklyn Nets.
A change in approach has shifted the way this team aims to win. For the first time in the Doncic era, Dallas is winning with defense. And that is something to marvel over.
Jalen Brunson’s breakout year
Not just limited to defense, Dallas has found a lift in the elevation of Jalen Brunson — who is enjoying a breakout season.
Brunson is averaging 16 points per game, 5.6 assists and 3.8 rebounds. All are career highs for the fourth-year guard out of Villanova.
As a starter, Brunson’s numbers only get better. He averages 19.7 points per game and 6.8 assists while shooting 49 percent from the field and 35 percent from three.
In a season where Kristaps Porzingis or Doncic have been in and out of the lineup, it’s Brunson who has been the Mavericks’ most consistent performer. However, he agrees with Doncic in believing that through the ups and downs, Dallas stands poised to overperform in the second half of the season.
“It’s been a little bit of a rollercoaster,” Brunson said. “We’ve had ups and we’ve had downs. But I think, for the most part, we are putting ourselves in a position to be a good team. As long as we keep getting better, learning from our mistakes — learning from our wins as well — the sky’s the limit for us.”
The second 41
As Dallas cruises into the second half of the schedule, the hope is Porzingis and Doncic will have a stretch of games where they play together. The two have yet to put together 10-straight games lining up next to one another.
With Doncic’s ankle healthy, Brunson playing at the highest level of his career and Porzingis exiting health and safety protocols soon, Dallas’ best is yet to come.
“We just got to keep buying in,” Brunson said. “That’s been our thing, buying in and holding each other accountable. Our chemistry is key for us.”
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Feature image via Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports.