Numbers don’t matter in the preseason.
At least that is what Jason Kidd, head coach of the Dallas Mavericks, wants you to believe. But after a 127-59 rout of the Charlotte Hornets, winning big in this preseason has shown things might be a little bit different than years prior.
“I thought the guys executed the game plan for 48 minutes,” Kidd said after the game on Wednesday. “That first group set the tone defensively and offensively… I also want to commend those guys that played at the end. They played hard and shared the ball, and that is good to see.”
Wednesday night was a different Mavericks game from the previous season. Dallas effectively took away everything Charlotte wanted to do. And the score of the game was a product of Kidd’s defense-first philosophy he’s preached throughout training camp, coupled with a revitalized effort on the side of the floor that plagued Dallas throughout last season.
“The rim battles – not fouling at the rim – was something we were working on and talking about,” Kidd said. “I thought everyone who participated at the rim did a really good job.”
Dallas’ large lead throughout the contest allowed for extended zone defensive action. After the game, Kidd sang praises for those efforts as well. With the defense a priority, there is a possibility that Dallas does not have to rely on a historic offensive season to compete amongst the Western Conference elite.
With the limited roster, and just Luka Dončić offensively, Dallas will have to be better than the sum of its parts. To do so, defensive nights like Wednesday have to be the sought-after standard.
First team contributions for Dallas
When a team is up big, having multiple double-digit scorers is a given. However, what matters in Dallas’ case is who exactly did the scoring.
Tim Hardaway jr. led all scorers for the Mavericks with 20 points in 24 minutes. He connected on half of his 3-point shots (5-10). And though it is just preseason, Hardaway looks at this game as an opportunity to continue building towards championship contention.
He also seemed to keep things focused on the team effort on the defensive side of the ball.
“We just got to continue building,” Hardaway said. “Today, the guys did a great job scrambling and keeping guys in front of them.”
Outside of Hardaway, Kristaps Porzingis scored 17 points and looked comfortable in Kidd’s offensive actions.
“The system fits my game better,” Porzingis said. “I am a player that likes to use the mismatch in the post and then create situations from there.”
With Porzingis’ offensive confidence back, the only thing lagging is the defensive effort. And that too should come in time. The overall good news is Porzingis is feeling comfortable and confident in what he can be offensively under Kidd. In Charlotte, he finally got a taste of reaping that reward.
Looking ahead for the Mavericks
The final game of the Mavericks preseason is Friday against the Milwaukee Bucks at 7 p.m. central standard time. It will most likely serve as a tune-up for a regular-season chalked full of expectations. Expect both Porzingis and Dončić to play more minutes. And also expect Kidd to run a lot of what can be expected offensively for the Mavericks throughout the season.
Charlotte may have been a reason game, but it indicated that Dallas is, again, moving in the right direction. Now, it is time to do it again on Friday.
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Feature image via Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports.