DALLAS — Editor's note: The above video about the Mavericks and the national anthem is from Feb. 10, 2021.
This is what the Dallas Mavericks signed up for.
As Dallas shot its way to victory over New Orleans last Friday, the frustration of injury rehabs and chemistry building through tough losses showed its worth. The win streak had reached four and the Mavericks had won five of six since breaking loose from a six-game losing streak that encompassed the second-half of January.
Even though Dallas was felled in a thrilling 121-118 Valentine’s Day loss to the Portland Trailblazers to end the streak, the Mavericks have turned things around in February and now sit within a game and a half of a playoff spot in the Western Conference following a stretch that could have killed their season.
The 143-130 video game final score against the Pelicans was another game where an elite offensive flurry was amassed on the backs of their star duo.
Luka Dončić recorded a career-high 46 points against New Orleans, as he barely missed yet another triple-double, adding 8 rebounds and 12 assists in the win. Kristaps Porziņģis added 36 points, 7 rebounds, and sported a career-high eight 3-pointers on 13 attempts.
It was the 10th such time in Mavericks franchise history that two players scored at least 35 points or more on the same night, with the previous edition coming courtesy of Dirk Nowitzki (37) and Monta Ellis (35) in 2013. Up until the final minutes, it looked like Porziņģis was going to join the forty-point club too.
It was the prototypical night that the Mavericks envisioned for their offense when pairing the European duo together.
Following a 44-point effort against Portland, Dončić has had eight games with 40+ points this season. The 40+ point effort on Sunday marked the first one of those games for Dončić where he didn’t also couple his scoring outburst with 10+ assists, as he finished with nine dimes.
“Yes, it was great,” Dončić spoke of his career-high night against the Pelicans with his running mate Porziņģis also racking up points. “We both made a lot of baskets but in the end, the whole team played great. A lot of people played great and that is how we should play every game.”
After the game, Head Coach Rick Carlisle gushed about his offensive pillars. “They’re both great offensive players. They’re both very unique. They fit together extremely well. Their games complement each other extremely well. The chemistry [on Friday] was tremendous. Balls were being delivered on time, on target. People were stepping into shots in rhythm. It was great stuff to watch.”
For Porziņģis, it was validation. After a stellar bubble performance ended in injury, he worked his way back from surgery during the brief offseason and returned to action right when a COVID-19 outbreak hit Dallas in early January. Porziņģis bit his tongue through early minutes restrictions as he assimilated himself back into the Maverick rotation.
“What’s clicking for me offensively is that I have just been putting in a lot of work and I have been patient. I have been patient in knowing that the shots are going to start to fall, I am going to find opportunities, and I am not going to force it much. At the same time knowing that I do have to stay aggressive, otherwise, it is not just going to fall out of the sky. That has been my mindset and [Friday] was just one of those nights where the shots were falling.”
The Mavericks have been looking to optimize their star duo, with tinkering to the rotation that staggers Dončić and Porziņģis time on the floor together.
“I think you could see in the bubble the first glimpse of how we are capable of playing together and what we are capable of doing,” Porziņģis remarked.
“[Friday’s contest] was one of those games when things were clicking for both of us, and he was finding me open on the 3-point line,” the Latvian big man continued. “It gives both of us energy and builds the momentum for both of us and the team. When we get going like that, we are knocking down shots, and making the extra pass, it feels so easy and natural.”
Porziņģis is averaging 20.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game as he rounds back into form. Finding space to shine for star players on the same team is a delicate balance. Do it right and everybody eats. Do it wrong and the team implodes.
The Mavericks have the fortunate problem of needing to work in a running mate for a player that is, quite frankly, on a historic trajectory that we’ve never seen in Dallas before.
Dallas believed in Porziņģis enough to warrant a max salary designation for the 25-year old to flank Dončić in his ascension. With both players performing at optimum levels, the team we last saw in the bubble fighting the best in the West finally appears to be taking shape.
Do you think the dynamic duo of Dončić and Porziņģis will lead the Mavs back to the playoffs? Make your predictions with Irvin on Twitter @Twittirv.