Brunson Steps Up
The one bright spot for the Mavericks’ offense tonight was Jalen Brunson, who replaced the injured Luka Doncic in the starting lineup. In spot starts last season, Brunson played well and looked quite comfortable as a starter but tonight turned out to arguably be his best game as a Maverick.
Without Luka, it was up to the likes of Brunson, J-Rich, and Hardaway Jr. to step up offensively in his absence and JB did just that and more, finishing with 31 points, 5 rebounds, and 7 assists.
Brunson was fantastic all night long, truly the engine that kept the offense running throughout the entirety of the game, whether that was hitting floaters, threes, or in the pick-in-roll as a facilitator.
After a few sluggish outings, tonight can surely be seen as a kickstarter to get Brunson in a groove again to lead the second unit once Luka is back in the lineup.
It’s been a rough go for the Mavericks shooting to start the season. Coming into tonight’s game, Dallas was shooting just 31.7% from three, best for 27th in the league, or fourth-worst.
Luka’s shooting struggles have been well-documented to start the season but there’s been an abundance of wide open three’s that haven’t gone down.
This isn’t a panic button situation but it’s something to monitor. Luka will continue to find open shooters and shots will begin to fall. It’s just a matter at what rate compared to the historic offensive efficiency from last season.
More James Johnson
Johnson has shown some nice flashes so far this season and not just in the defensive and toughness categories.
I guess I wasn’t privy to the playmaking ability that Johnson has. He’s an intelligent basketball player who is more than just a goon. He can play some point forward as well as hit the occasional jumper from downtown.
But it’s not about the stat sheet for someone like Johnson. He does the little things that attribute to a winning team.
On top of the early season struggles of Dwight Powell, once KP is back in the fold, seeing more of Johnson could be a positive wrinkle to come for the Mavericks as the rotation continues to iron itself out.
A game like tonight was winnable whether the Mavericks had Luka or not, but that’s not the point. If Luka was able to play tonight through his left quad contusion, you would hope that the Mavericks would have played him.
Not to question Carlisle, Casey Smith, and company but starting the season off slow already on top being without Porzingis and a shorter schedule, every game means a little bit more this season. Games like tonight against a lottery team in Chicago are must wins when it comes to playoff implications down the line.
Remember the two losses to the Knicks last season? That’s a spot or two difference in the standings.
If the move was to “save” Luka for the Rockets tomorrow on a back-to-back, understood. But at the end of the day, the importance of every game has heightened this season and if Luka could’ve gone tonight, he should’ve.
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