Dallas Mavericks: Experiencing Growing Pains

Luka Doncic continues to show why he is worth it! Photo Courtesy: Dominic Ceraldi

By Joel Montgomery

As January nears its conclusion and the NBA All-Star Weekend draws near, Dallas’ perennial star Luka Doncic is still trying to make a push to be one of the features of that weekend’s festivities. The Dallas Mavericks on the other hand still have some work to do as a collective to keep the team afloat in the playoff hunt. Here’s how the past week went down on the hardwood for the team:
 
vs Milwaukee Bucks (1/21)
On Monday night, the Mavericks traveled to face one of the Eastern Conference’s top teams in the Bucks, who are attempting to make strides this season to have this franchise deep in the postseason once again. They’ve been one of the league’s blooming teams this year, as coach Mike Budenholzer has them playing at the level they’ve been long seeking. Premiere star Giannis Antetokounmpo (31 pts, 15 rebs) asserted his dominance as usual. He got some ample support as well, as the Bucks’ entire starting 5 scored 13 or more points. Eric Bledsoe (21 pts, 5 asts) continued to show his reliability as a 2nd option, and Brook Lopez (16 pts, 10 rebs) posted a double-double in an unusually great night grabbing boards from down low.
 
Dallas had a pretty hard time establishing offense all around. However, Luka (18 pts, 11 rebs, 10 asts) was able to get Twitter buzzing again by coining another triple-double. DeAndre Jordan (15 pts, 15 rebs) had an alright day underneath, but him alone couldn’t keep up with the tandem of Giannis and Lopez. Harrison Barnes (8 pts) struggled mightily; and considering what they’re paying him, Dallas will need him to do better if they want to be successful against these top tier teams.
 
FINAL: Milwaukee 116 (34-12), Dallas 106 (20-26)
 
 vs Los Angeles Clippers (1/22)
The Mavs came back home to host the Clippers on Tuesday night, who have so far had a surprisingly good season as they find themselves in the midst of the Western Conference playoff race despite having no star players. Fortunately for Dallas, they came to play against the Clips as this time the team had a lot better time distributing the ball for scoring opportunities. 
 
Harrison Barnes (20 pts) managed to bounce back after last game, and Luka (17 pts, 7 rebs, 6 asts) did his usual thing as the team’s focal point with aplomb. Dennis Smith Jr (17 pts, 8 rebs, 4 asts) returned for this game after his self-appointed leave of absence, and he did his part in helping the team to the W on his first game back. DeAndre Jordan (13 pts, 16 rebs) once again did work in the paint on his former team, and Dirk (8 pts) even managed to get some quality shots through in his 10 minutes of play time.
 
Patrick Beverley (16 pts, 9 rebs) led Los Angeles in scoring, and considering he’s part of the team’s defensive core, it’s hard for them to win a game like this. Lou Williams (15 pts) struggled somewhat off the bench, but would probably be a lot more of a help if he got more of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s unneeded minutes.
 
FINAL: Dallas 106 (21-26), Los Angeles (C) 98 (25-22)
 
vs Detroit Pistons (1/25)
On Friday the Mavericks hosted a Pistons team that’s tumbled significantly since their great start to the season. They’ve been getting good output out of their star big men, but their intense struggles have really been from their lack of a consistently good backcourt. Dallas took note of this and let Detroit’s towers have it. Blake Griffin (35 pts, 7 rebs) and Andre Drummond (23 pts, 15 rebs) completely dominated on their side offensively, but their outside guys couldn’t get it going to provide support. The Mavs knew to lock their guards up to have their best chance at winning and succeeded.
 
Luka (32 pts, 8 rebs, 8 asts) ended up having one of his most dominant performances of the season so far as he ran the offense however he wanted all over the Pistons. Dennis Smith (19 pts, 5 asts) once again had a good game as the backcourt was able to hold the team up despite Harrison Barnes (9 pts) struggling once again.
 
FINAL: Dallas 106 (22-26), Detroit 101 (21-27)
 
 vs Toronto Raptors (1/27)
While this time at home, Dallas this week had to face yet another top dog in the Eastern Conference, this time it was the guys from up north who came down for a visit. With the odds extremely out of their favor though, Dallas still rose up and provided an entertaining bout to the end.
 
Unfortunately, it was the end that ended up costing them in the grand scheme of the contest. After doubling Toronto’s score in the 3rd quarter, Dallas slipped up in the final minutes of Sunday’s game as the Raptors were constantly chipping away at the lead the Mavs had built up to that point. 
 
In another triple-double tirade, Luka (35 pts, 12 rebs, 10 asts) did everything in his power to keep Dallas in it, but it was to no avail. Doncic looked visibly frustrated after the game due to the lost lead and vain performance. The rest of the team will need to step up in games like this to complete a Luka-dominated win, as this game proves you can’t do it alone.
 
Superstar forward Kawhi Leonard (33 pts, 10 rebs) had a great game against a team he usually has no trouble performing well against, and Kyle Lowry (19 pts, 5 rebs, 9 asts) continues to improve as a pure point guard who seems locked in on playoff time. We’ll see where this highly promising team goes moving forward.
 
FINAL: Toronto 123 (37-15), Dallas 120 (22-27)
 
Now still 5 games under .500, the Mavericks still have some work to do in order to get back into the playoff race. If the whole team can rise with Luka to rain down consistent, high-powered offense even against the best of teams, they’ll have a lot to be excited about in just a short time. Coming up, Dallas has a brief road trip against some lower tier East competiton that they can hopefully scoop up some W’s against.
 
Upcoming Schedule – All Times Central
1/30 @ Knicks       6:30 p.m.
1/31  @ Pistons      6:00 p.m.
2/2   @ Cavaliers   6:30 p.m.