Kristaps Porzingis returning from health and safety protocols gave the Dallas Mavericks something it hasn’t had all year — a clean bill of health.
All-season, Dallas has dealt with Luka Doncic, Porzingis and an assortment of rotation players constantly missing time for one injury or another. But, Despite players missing in action, Dallas holds a 24-19 record through 43 games. And after Saturday night’s 108-92 win over the Orlando Magic, the Mavericks have a clean bill of health as well. Meaning, Dallas’ moment to strike is now, while Porzingis is healthy, Doncic is in shape and Jalen Brunson looks like an all-star.
“We are playing together,” Brunson said after beating Orlando. “It has been a little bit of a weird year, but we are clicking at the right time. We just have to keep it going and can’t be satisfied with what we have been able to do these past couple of weeks. We just have to keep pushing the same way we have been.”
Dallas’ run without a fully healthy roster
Without all the pieces of the puzzle, Dallas has managed to transform itself into a defense-first team. A stark transition from what it was just a season ago.
In the last eight games, Dallas’ defensive rating is 97.1. With Doncic on the court, Dallas’ defensive rating sits at 93.7. The Mavericks are 7-1 in the last eight games.
While he was out, Porzingis took notice of the shift from offense to defense. And he gives credit to the coaching staff for making the defensive side of the ball a top priority.
“I think it starts with our coaching staff,” Porzingis said. “They are the ones that are instilling this kind of defense into us. And we have the guys to be able to do that. So, that’s one thing — our mindset as players.
“Also, I think, when we’re — offensively — moving the ball and everyone is touching it and we are feeling good, we have more energy on the defensive end. If we have that combination, we are capable of holding teams under 100 points, and that gives us a good chance at winning.”
What a healthy lineup means for the Mavericks
In total, Brunson, Doncic and Porzingis have played in a whopping 15 games together.
It’s no surprise that for long stretches in the first half of the season, Dallas found itself hovering around .500 ball. With Orlando being the first game featuring all three since early December, Dallas stands ready to take the necessary step forward.
Without Porzingis or Doncic or Brunson for stretches, Dallas found a way to win with its defense. With all three healthy, opponents will have to pick their poison when it comes to game-planning against the Mavericks.
It hasn’t always been pretty, but with a clean bill of health, Dallas is rounding into the team everyone thought it would be at the start of the season.
Porzingis is a walking mismatch on the offensive end and a nightmare to finish against at the rim. Doncic, when healthy and in shape, is a top-five player in the league. And Brunson remains one of the most underrated players at his position.
If Dallas aims to compete in the NBA playoff picture, now is the time to step on the gas — not later.
“The team has really done well and fought through adversity,” General Manager Nico Harrison said. “It’s a football term they use, next man up, and we embody that. And if you look at our defense, it’s holding true.”
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Feature image via Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports.