When playing the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks, it was evident that Dallas still has a ways to go before genuine championship contention.

But the Mavericks managed to win on Sunday — despite the dearth of talent in comparison — 118-112 by controlling the pace and relying on Luka Doncic to do the rest. And in the playoffs, if Dallas can follow the same game plan, controlling the speed of the game and allowing Doncic to distribute shots evenly amongst the role players, it will be able to hang with the contenders in the wide-open Western Conference.

“This group knows they can respond [after Wizards game],” Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd said. “Sometimes games, they don’t go your way. You have to move forward. This group is always happy, they have a lot of fun. They knew this was going to be tough and they put themselves in a position to win.”

Dallas knew it would have to play better than it did against Washington. In that game, it let Washington dictate how the game was played.

“Having a rough game like that, it was important to bounce back,” Dwight Powell said. “Regardless of that outcome, it was important to come and play well today.”

So, in Milwaukee, though the Bucks got out to an early lead, the Mavericks never waivered. Scratch that — Doncic never waivered. And because of his incandescent confidence, Dallas was never out of the game — even though Milwaukee went on a 14-0 run early.

Doncic finished the game with 32 points and 15 assists. It was his third game this season logging a state of similar ilk. The rest of the NBA sits tied with Doncic for the same amount.

“He’s the orchestrator out there,” Jalen Brunson, who scored 15 points, said. “He does a lot for us. It’s pretty special.”

Dwight Powell’s big night

Dallas’ pick-and-roll scheme made life difficult for Milwaukee’s defense.

And the benefactor of that scheme was Powell, who scored 22 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. He was a dangerous roller, who put pressure on the rim, and forced Milwaukee to pick its poison when it came to stopping Dallas.

Powell claims that in pick-and-roll situations, he was simplifying the game and attempting to make the correct offensive read. And the rest appeared to be all effort plays — what he does best.

He and Doncic’s synergy on the court is unmistakable. They often communicate with a subtle glance, eyebrow raise, or hand gesture. And oftentimes, opposing teams don’t know how to stop them from getting into the paint and collapsing defenses. Part of that chemistry is Powell’s availability. He’s the only Maverick to appear in every game to this point in the season.

To that, he says he wants to play all 82.

“You want to be able to be there,” he said. “At the end of the day, I love competing, and trying to help win any way I can.”

Bounce-back Mavs 

Winning against Milwaukee doesn’t mean Dallas is a contender. See the loss to Washington as proof that the team is far from that point in its life cycle. However, it does mean Dallas has figured out a way to win when talent alone isn’t enough.

In the playoffs, the Mavericks need to control the pace of play from the start. Everyone knows Doncic will be Doncic. But if Dallas limits possessions, forces untimely turnovers and keeps the game around 99 points, it may win a series — or two.

“We have to get back to playing defense,” Kidd said. “We all know that.”

Related Dallas Mavericks reading 

“The third seed is Dallas’ but Jason Kidd has differing opinions.”
“Mavericks: 3rd in the West is Dallas’ for the taking.” 

Feature image via Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports.