It would have been easy for the Dallas Mavericks to just phone it in until the All-Star break or wait around until their leader Luka Doncic returned from his injured ankle. For the Mavs, however, they were able to survive their sophomore sensation’s seven-game absence by riding the hot hand of Kristaps Porzingis.
Prior to his injury in New York – which eventually led to Dallas swinging a trade for the former All-Star big man to pair with Doncic – Porzingis was the primary option on the floor for the Knicks. The fourth-overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft was a guy who could give his team 30 points and 10 rebounds every night as he was blossoming into one of the game’s stars.
Now in Dallas, the Porzingis side of the proposed dynamic duo got off to a slow start as he got more comfortable with the process of not being the No. 1 option with the ball always in his hands. The Mavericks made it work as Porzingis adjusted to his role on the team. While the numbers weren’t there, the weight of endless losses in New York slowly began to free Porzingis to become a contributor as Doncic carried the Mavericks to victories early in the season.
Since coming back from the knee injury that required surgery and led to the trade, Porzingis has basically been seen as the Robin to Doncic’s Batman for the Maverick. However, with the recent absence of Luka, Porzingis has shown that he can still put on the cape and cowl and lead Dallas with a heavier load on offense.
Though obviously the Mavericks would have preferred to have Luka out there, it had to have been encouraging to see that Porzingis is still capable of carrying the offensive onslaught on any given night.
Over the five games Porzingis suited up without Doncic in the lineup, the Mavs’ newcomer averaged 28.8 points per game and grabbed an average of 10 rebounds. Prior to Luka’s ankle injury, Porzingis was averaging 17.2 points and 8.9 boards per game with superstar Doncic as the point man.
Without Doncic running the offense on the court, having Porzingis take over is precisely what the team needed to see from The Unicorn. Against Houston, Indiana, and Memphis, Porzingis put up three consecutive games of 30 or more points after only having scored 30+ points just once with Luka on the court. Porzingis’ 38 points at the Pacers on February 2 became his season high as the Mavs took home a win against an Indiana team that had been particularly strong at home.
The elephant in the room the entire time Luka was absent – and Porzingis was flourishing – was how the two would perform once Dallas’ superstar guard was able to make his return. Those questions were quickly answered on Wednesday night as Doncic and Porzingis showed off their rapidly improving chemistry with perhaps their best game of the year as a duo in a first half-closing 130-111 victory over the Sacramento Kings.
What Porzingis gained from Luka’s time away was providing Dallas with the confidence that the ability to take over games still exists in him and that, once the team reconvenes after the All-Star break, the Mavs will have two scorers on the floor capable of lighting up the scoreboard as they continue their hunt to make it back to the playoffs in the tough Western Conference.
Do you think Porzingis’ hot hand will carry over into the second half with Doncic back in the lineup? Share your thoughts with Patrick on Twitter @PatSportsGuy.
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