The Mavericks bounced back from their bad loss in Chicago on Wednesday with a comfortable 123-109 road win over the Spurs on Friday night. They were led by their top billing duo of Luka Doncic with a 32 point, 15 assist and 12 rebound triple-double and a 32 point, 7 rebound, 3 block performance from Kristaps Porzingis.
After not scoring over 18 points in the first three games of the season prior to his lower back injury, Porzingis has scored 20+ in three of his four games since returning. In those four games, Porzingis has shot an efficient 50% (32-64) from the field and averaged 8.5 rebounds per game.
KP’s performance on Friday night was perhaps the most encouraging performance for him so far this season. Not just because he scored 32 points, but in the way in which he got those baskets.
Too often this season, we’ve watched Porzingis catch the ball somewhere between the elbow and the three point line and try to back his way down into a tough turnaround jumper. It’s just not his game and it’s not a good possession for the Mavericks anytime he does it. The post up stats on NBA.com aren’t too kind to KP, either. There are nine players across the NBA averaging over three post ups per game and the Mavericks have two in KP and Luka. The rest of the group includes no surprises with the likes of Nikola Jokic, Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid, Julius Randle, Bam Adebayo, Al Horford and Jonas Valanciunas. Of that group getting a high volume of post ups, KP is only better than Valanciunas and Luka when it comes to points-per-possession at .81. For comparison, the reigning MVP of the league in Jokic averages 1.06 PPP. These just aren’t efficient or easy baskets for Porzingis.
The key for KP to get his stats and overall level of play back to where it can make himself and Mavericks fans happy is finding ways to get this man who is virtually taller than everyone in the league besides his teammates Boban Marjanovic in a position to score easy baskets. One data point that could defend the post ups is that Porzingis is third behind Adebayo and Embiid when it comes to earning free throws out of post ups, something that has certainly been noticeable in the four games since he returned from injury. Porzingis being such a good free throw shooter (81% for his career) should be a weapon for himself and the Mavericks should he learn how to control his body like Luka does to earn free throw attempts.
Something that has been encouraging all of this season so far is how seemingly well KP is moving around the court. Whenever he is not positioning himself for a post up, KP has moved very well without the ball and is having plenty of really strong cuts to the rim and there were multiple examples on Friday night.
Neat play for two reasons: 1. Luka as the roll man(?!?!), 2. Porzingis with the follow-up. pic.twitter.com/cMUm1av6cd
— Bobby Karalla (@bobbykaralla) November 13, 2021
— Kevin Gray Jr. (@KevinGraySports) November 13, 2021
Get the easy baskets at the rim! He is getting those at the moment with strong, crisp movements towards the basket and that is a great thing to see.
There are ways throwing the ball down to Porzingis in the post can be a positive for the offense, but it is a pretty specific example that does not happen as often as it should. It’s when KP is able to establish position on a smaller defender way deep inside the paint, like near the restricted area, and he has his hands up in the air ready for a pass. This is the kind of moment where Porzingis has been able score very efficiently in the paint for Dallas. It’s pretty fundamental stuff that they teach you early on if you’re a big. Establish position down low, catch the ball up high and then never bring it back down to the crowd. Moments like this are a net positive for Dallas. Make or miss, you can live with the concept of it. It’s much harder to feel great about any sort of extended dribbling for KP.
For example, last night Porzingis averaged just .42 dribbles per touch and 1.46 seconds per touch, according to NBA.com. He scored 32 points on less than half a dribble anytime he touched the ball. I’m not sure what half a dribble is, but I think you get the point. For the season he averages .55 dribbles per touch and 1.57 seconds per touch. On opening night in Atlanta when Porzingis scored just 11 points on 4-13 shooting, he averaged .64 dribbles per touch and 1.72 seconds per touch. These aren’t the most incredible differences if you look at them, but the difference is clear: the less he dribbles/holds on to the ball, the more efficiently he is able to score.
The point isn’t to say that Porzingis isn’t welcomed to shoot in the Mavericks offense or that he is bad. He is a very good player who can become excellent if he maximizes his size and uses his skills in the most effective ways. He needs to embrace the advantages he should have when pursuing easier opportunities to score closer to the basket and do it without dribbling too much and bumping his body into someone over and over on a post up. Get to your spot, get the ball, put it up quickly if it seems like a decent shot.
Even without the impressive half-court buzzer beaters, Porzingis had a hell of a night on Friday night in San Antonio. It wasn’t because he was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar demanding the ball for a sky hook. It was because he found plenty of easy baskets by moving without the ball and positioning himself to score quickly once he had the ball in his hands. Hopefully this is something that can continue on a regular basis for a Mavericks offense that has struggled so far this season.
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