It’s always going to be a good time when the Mavs and Spurs get together. Even though energy of the mid-2000s rivalry isn’t quite there anymore, there’s always an extra element in the AAC with plenty of Spurs fans being in the building.
Tuesday night’s game had the atmosphere of a big time event with fans standing on their feet in the final two minutes, but rookie Luka Doncic’s struggles throughout the night proved just too much to overcome down the stretch as the Mavericks fell to the Spurs, 112-105. Here are my three takeaways:
Hot start for Dirk
The Big German came out firing Tuesday by hitting his first three shots to total 8 points in the first five minutes of the game.
If you’ve been to a Mavs game the last few seasons, you know that Mavs fans shower Dirk with more love than ever. At this stage in his career, a made Dirk three pointer in the first quarter gets the same loud crowd reaction as a big-time basket by anyone else in the fourth quarter. While it’s kind of patronizing to the future Hall of Famer, it makes the game really fun in the stands and even up in the press box.
While he was admittedly quiet throughout the rest of the game, anytime Dirk nails a couple three’s in a short stretch, it is definitely a highlight of the game.
This shot doesn't need a caption. We'll give it a statue one day though. pic.twitter.com/nuusNER99B
— Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) March 13, 2019
These days, if the Mavs rookie isn’t firing on all cylinders, the team more or less has no shot at competing in a game. Tuesday’s game was definitely an outlier. After injuring his knee late in Sunday’s loss to the Rockets, Doncic was listed as questionable for Tuesday’s game. He decided to tough it out and give it a go.
Luka proceeded to struggle greatly throughout the game. He was held scoreless in a first quarter that included many stints of playing off the ball and quickly shoveling it along when he did get the ball in his hands. He didn’t end up scoring his first basket until very late in second quarter.
While he fought hard in the second half and got to 12 points for the game, it wasn’t enough to prevent him from having arguably his worst game of the year with nine turnovers and a horrendous 1-9 performance from the free throw line with three of those misses coming in the final minutes of a close game.
Rick Carlisle was well aware of Doncic’s struggles, but knows nights like this can occasionally happen for a 20-year-old.
“He didn’t look right,” Carlisle said when asked postgame if Luka’s knee was bothering him throughout the game. “He had a rough night. Tough nights happen, so we just have to learn from it.”
Luka was visibly upset all throughout the night with both himself and the referees. There was a timeout in the third quarter where he spent a good chunk of it complaining to a referee instead of being with his team in the huddle. I asked Dirk Nowitzki what he thought about Luka’s emotions on the court during the highs and lows of a game.
“He’s an emotional player. He’s fully invested. He wants to win; he’s a competitor. That’s what makes him great. He just turned twenty, so he’ll be fine. I’m not worried about him.”
If Dirk says it will be okay, then we have no reason to worry about it.
Jalen Brunson brings it
In the absence of Luka’s scoring, the other Mavs rookie picked things up big time to keep Dallas in the game where they were always on the verge of being knocked out. Jalen Brunson notched a new career high with 34 points on 12-16 shooting from the field in one of the most efficient games by a Maverick this season.
Jalen Brunson is GOOD, y'all. pic.twitter.com/nRoiVe4wpP
— Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) March 13, 2019
The rookie receives high praise from teammates and coaches alike after the game.
“We love ’em. He’s probably grown more than any other player on our roster,” Rick Carlisle said with a smile. “There’s a guy who has really learned a lot, done all the work; he’s developed his body. He thinks faster and quicker. He’s adapted his game to today’s game. We’re very proud of him.”
In the 14 games since the All-Star Break, Brunson has averaged 14 points a game with an impressive 50% shooting line.
Notes/How the game was actually won
The Spurs trio of DeMar Derozan (33 points), Lamarcus Aldridge (28 points) and Derrick White (23 points) combined for an impressive 84 of the 112 San Antonio points. Both Aldridge and DeRozan did their typical mid-range jumper game to near perfection throughout the night as Dwight Powell and Maxi Kleber had no answer for Aldridge when he operated with his back to the basket.
The Spurs went made all 18 of their free throws tonight. The Mavericks went a putrid 15/16 from the charity stripe with Luka Doncic’s line of 1/9 not helping the cause. He is now down to 67% from the line in the month of March. Unless his name’s Shaq, you can’t win at a championship level with your superstar shooting free throws like this. Doncic will have to improve in this area and he knows it. He stayed late tonight to work on it.
Luka extra FT’s pic.twitter.com/fVQKyu7nYs
— Mike Peasley (@PeasESPN) March 13, 2019
After a practice tomorrow, the Mavericks will get on a plane and try to fly to the arctic state of Colorado where there is a blizzard warning currently scheduled during their time in the air. Safe travels, boys.
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