If Dallas lost to the Atlanta Hawks Sunday night, it wouldn’t have been because of Trae Young. Atlanta’s All-Star guard was limited to 17 points on 31 percent from the field.
It would have been because of foul trouble. But behind the miraculous shooting of none other than Reggie Bullock, who scored 22 points on six made threes, the Mavericks can ride home successfully with a 103-94 win.
“I think he’s doing everything,” Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd said. “We’ve asked him to guard. We’ve asked him to rebound. We’re asking him to start the first play in a pick-and-roll… He’s answered the call for us.”
Where Bullock stepped up
When Luka Doncic picked up his fifth foul with nearly two quarters left, the situation appeared grim. Then Jalen Brunson picked up his fifth foul on what was ruled an offensive foul with six minutes left to play in the third quarter, and grim circumstances grew worse.
Yet, Bullock stared down Dallas’ situation and provided one of his finest games of the season. In the fourth quarter, he did most of his damage, scoring 10 points, hitting two threes and finishing 4-4 from the field in the final stanza.
“When a player goes down, the next man comes up,” Bullock said. “This is what they bring me here for — to be a two-way player. Playing hard on the defensive end and taking my shots on offense. It’s all about me staying consistent.”
Sunday night’s game is just the latest example of Bullock finally meeting preseason expectations. It also marks the sixth-straight game in which he scored in double-figures. The streak dates back to Jan. 26, when Dallas played Portland — the game after Tim Hardaway Jr. went down with a foot injury.
“Reggie is playing really well,” Brunson said. “He has been getting open a lot and knocking down shots.”
How Bullock is making things happen
Kidd attributes Bullock’s success, as of late, to him knocking down the open looks Brunson and Doncic create for him.
“You can see our quarterbacks are trying to find him which is kind of cool and fun in that respect to the game,” Kidd said. “He’s getting a lot of looks as Luka [Dončić] and [Jalen Brunson] find him.”
60.8 percent of Bullock’s shots, in the last five games, are considered wide open, according to NBA.com tracking data. In the entire season, that number hovers around 48 percent for Bullock.
He’s clearly taking advantage of the bevy of open shots created by Brunson and Doncic’s offensive gravity. Opposing teams are forced to adjust when Dallas’ two lead guards are putting downhill pressure on defenses. In fact, you could say that, in those moments, Dallas’ offense turns into a pick-your-poison affair.
However, lately, teams are dying at the hands of Dallas’ 30-million-dollar-man.
“If you look over the lifespan of his career with the Mavericks, he’s had a lot of open shots,” Kidd said. “That’s the game. You look at the teams that are playing well, they all make open shots… He can do that.”
Taking Dallas’ offense to the next level
It’s no surprise that Bullock’s increased comfort level has coincided with increased minutes from Kidd.
Bullock had to play more. The injury to Hardaway forced Kidd’s hand. However, Bullock’s hot hand will also force Kidd to make some tough decisions as to who starts when Dallas (31-23) is fully healthy.
But that is a conversation for another day. For now, the Mavericks are focused on winning the next game. By the luck of the draw, that game is set for Tuesday.
“We’ll see,” Kidd said of if he thinks Bullock will start later in the season. “He started at the beginning of the season. He’s starting now. We’ll get healthy. We’ll look at a couple more combinations. Then we’ll see who brings the teacher an apple to be able to get to start.”
It’s safe to say, Bullock’s “apple” is looking pretty good right now.
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Feature image via Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports.