Stop the despair, at least for now, because these Dallas Mavericks look legit.
It wasn’t long ago that Dallas looked ready to throw in the towel. Luka Doncic wasn’t healthy. The defense was leaking open shots. The offense couldn’t buy a basket if everyone’s lives depended on it. And no one looked comfortable playing with each other. But all that is history. Dallas owns a six-game win streak. And the latest win came by way of the Chicago Bulls on Sunday in Dallas, 113-99.
“The key to our wins right now is our defense,” Maxi Kleber, who scored 18 points, said. “Even if our shots aren’t falling, that gives us a chance to win games.”
Dallas (22-18) joined elite company in beating both the Bulls and the Golden State Warriors throughout the current six-game win streak. The only other team to accomplish that feat this season is the Philadelphia 76ers. And Philly has an advantage because it plays Chicago more than twice.
Outside of being in rare air, Dallas impressed on Sunday by holding Chicago — owners of a nine-game win streak heading into the contest — to under 100 points. To do so, Dallas predicated its game plan on making one of the league’s best 3-point shooting teams uncomfortable.
It worked. Chicago shot 33 percent from three (11-33). And in the fourth quarter, the Bulls were so out of rhythm offensively, the Mavericks effortlessly pulled away.
“The coaches have put us in a position to be successful,” Jalen Brunson, who scored 17 points, said of the defense. “Guys have really bought in, and it’s been a fun thing to be a part of. I don’t think we are going to let this slip. As long as we focus on the defensive side of the ball, we’ll be in good shape.”
The team’s new perspective and mentality
If your eyes have seen a change in effort and intensity in this island of misfit toys, they aren’t lying to you.
Dallas is bought in. Head coach Jason Kidd has instilled in the Mavericks an innate belief that they can go out and play with anyone. The opposing team’s record doesn’t matter. An opposing team’s current win streak isn’t even thought of. And outside distractions are left at the door.
The only thing that matters is how hard everyone in a Mavericks uniform is willing to play for one another during 48 minutes of game action.
“We are approaching every game like it’s our last,” Brunson said. “We’re not worried about career highs, and we’re not worried about jersey retirements… We’re locked in right now, and that’s what makes this run so special.”
Dallas can thank the changed mental approach for its first six-game win streak since April of 2016. And Doncic, who tallied a 22-point triple-double, echoed a similar perspective to Brunson regarding Dallas’ mentality on its current six-game run — the longest win streak in Doncic’s young NBA career.
“Golden state and Chicago are two top teams,” he said. “We can play with anybody… And we are starting to figure out things. Most importantly we are playing together.”
Dallas is just getting started
This six-game win streak appears to be only the beginning. There is a belief that Dallas can still get better.
The aura around this team is one where it’s seeing its potential realized, and everyone involved wants more.
Basketball is a lot like life. It doesn’t make sense until it does. The Mavericks’ six-game win streak is the team finally making sense of what was a middling season.
Stop the despair. By beating Chicago, Dallas proved that it’s legit and that the best is yet to come.
“Our chemistry on the court is a lot better,” Brunson said. “I think we’re just locked in right now. We’re not folding.”
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Feature image via Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports.