A lot of things have gone right for the Dallas Mavericks throughout their 4-2 start to the 2019-20 campaign. Even in their two losses they were right there with a chance to win, only being tripped up by a coach’s challenge against Portland and a missed offensive foul on Danny Green’s overtime-forcing 3 pointer against LA. With that in mind, it’s not hard to see how Dallas could very well have been sitting pretty at 6-0 right now.
Luka Doncic has been a revelation, not only picking up right where he left off last season but continuing to elevate his game. In six contests, Doncic has notched three triple-doubles, giving him 11 for his career, and was a lone assist away another against the Trail Blazers. His vision, playmaking ability, and scoring have clearly established him as one of the game’s most dynamic stars.
Kristaps Porzingis, meanwhile, has also shown flashes of his former, dominant self early in the year, averaging 20.5 points, 8 boards, and just under 3 blocks per game. He’s already logged his first 30-point night for Dallas and has remained a force on the defensive end. He’s certainly shown rust at times, struggling mightily against the Lakers and starting very slow against the Cavs but that could be attributed to conditioning as the initial grind of the season settles in. Still, if Dallas wants to get the most out of its superstar duo, they’ll need to get their big man rolling early and often.
If there has been a one criticism of Doncic and head coach Rick Carlisle thus far, it’s that the pair haven’t done enough to get Porzingis going early on in games and to keep him involved once he checks back into the game in the second quarter. Throughout his career, Porzingis has been at his best whenever he’s gotten rolling early. As the centerpiece in New York with a largely underwhelming roster around him, that was pretty standard operating procedure, but it’s been somewhat hit or miss with Dallas through the first week and a half of the season. Even when Dallas has gone to him early, they’ve not been great reintegrating him into the offensive flow whenever he’s checked back into the game.
After a quick start against the Lakers this past week in which Porzingis scored 8 points in the first quarter, when he returned to the floor in the second quarter, several minutes passed before the ball really found him in a scoring position, resulting in a cold hand throughout the rest of the game. By the end of the night, KP’s final stat line was 16 points on 6/16 shooting, 1/3 from beyond the arc, and just 3/6 at the charity stripe.
Making matters worse, this funk seemed to linger into the Cavs game as Porzingis was highly deferential throughout the first half, attempting just one shot before the 8:41 mark of the second quarter. That cannot happen. He did end the game with 18 points, but most of that came in the fourth quarter and with Luka on the bench. So, whether Porzingis’ scoring struggles are the result of understandable fatigue or just the getting used to the flow of Carlisle’s offense, Dallas must figure out a way to work past the issue. While KP’s shooting percentages aren’t bad this year, 43% from the field and 38.5% from 3, he could use some easier looks to build himself back up and get himself going again.
For Dallas, things have mostly been very good to start the season. Even with KP struggling as of late to score at his usual clip, he’s found ways to impact the game, rebounding the ball far better than the first two games of the year when he logged just four rebounds apiece, and recording a ridiculous 11 blocked shots over the past three games. If Dallas can get him back on track offensively, they could make some serious headway through the next ten games, putting them in the thick of the playoff chase and not playing catch up from beyond a sizable deficit like they have the past three seasons.
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