For a brief moment in their contest against the Philadelphia 76ers, it looked like the Dallas Mavericks were about to blow their second 25-point lead this week.
The Mavericks led by 25 points late in the third quarter and entered the final period still up by 19. Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey then led a spirited rally to kick off the fourth quarter, scoring 10 of their next 15 points in less than three minutes.
This run trimmed Dallas’ lead to four, 110-106, and it was only at that point in time that head coach Jason Kidd decided to reinsert his star guard Luka Doncic. Unlike their disastrous loss to the Los Angeles Lakers earlier this week though, the Mavericks managed to hold off their opponents down the stretch as they came away with a hardfought 133-126 win.
Doncic finished the contest with 42 points, seven three-pointers, four rebounds, 12 assists, and a steal. Their prized midseason acquisition Kyrie Irving also reached the 40-point mark while he also added six three-pointers, four rebounds, six assists, and three steals. They are the first Dallas teammates to score at least 40 points in the same game and it is more likely than not that this will not be the last time this happens.
These are exactly the type of performances that fans envisioned after the Mavericks’ general manager Nico Harrison brought in Irving and the hope is that this win reinvigorates the team after their struggles of the past few weeks.
After winning their initial two games with Irving where Doncic sat with a right heel contusion, the team lost five of their next six outings as their superstar duo struggled to acclimate themselves with one another. However, the on-court product that they displayed during their victory over a quality Philadelphia team suggests that these high-scoring guards are beginning to grow more comfortable with one another.
It was Doncic who led the charge for Dallas over the first three quarters as he scored 35 points to help them erect a 25-point lead. Later on in the fourth period when the Sixers pulled within four points, it was Irving’s turn to step up. He scored six of his 11 fourth quarter points in the immediate aftermath of Philadelphia’s run to bring their lead back up to 10.
While the performances of Doncic and Irving deservedly grab all of the attention, the Mavericks’ role players played a key role in the win as well. Dallas’ three other starters–Reggie Bullock, Josh Green, and Dwight Powell–played their roles perfectly as the hard-nosed defense that they provide continues to make up for the shortcomings of Doncic and Irving on that end of the floor.
Bullock had a fine three-point shooting game too, hitting five of his 10 attempts, and reserves Tim Hardaway Jr, Maxi Kleber, and Christian Wood added two apiece. The spacing enabled by their shooting is crucial for the Mavericks’ success and they will have to grow more consistent if this team wants to make it to the postseason.
Dallas still holds the fifth seed in the Western Conference with a 33-31 record, but their recent string of losses has pushed them closer to the rest of the pack. They only lead the 11th place Los Angeles Lakers by 2.5 games and will have to shape up if they want to keep their guaranteed playoff berth.
At the very least, the presence of Doncic and Irving ensures that the Mavericks will be competitive whenever they take the floor. These two players have a great feel for the game and their partnership should only grow more fruitful as they play more games together.
Ultimately, the biggest factor that will decide how far Dallas can go is the consistency of their role players. If this win against the Sixers is any indication, they can step up when needed, yet the true test will be whether or not they can do this on a nightly basis.