You’ve never heard an arena grumble a more nervous tone than inside the American Airlines Center late in the first half of the Dallas Mavericks’ game against the Chicago Bulls on Monday.
Warning: it involved a momentary scare involving prized rookie Luka Doncic, who banged his knee with a Bulls player that shall remain nameless while attempting a Luka-like reverse layup, which, surprisingly didn’t go in.
For those not passed out at the thought of Doncic hobbling this early in his Mavs career, breathe easy. He never came out of the game, though, it was evident he was in some pain.
Nothing seems to faze the 19-year-old, who was one of six Mavs to finish in double-figures [the second straight game that’s happened] in a 115-109 victory.
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“He’s a pretty tough kid,” Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle said. “He gets banged a lot and gets popped up. For a 19-year-old kid he is put together. It is fun to watch him go at it. He’s not afraid of contact and not afraid of collisions.”
Doncic had 19 points, six assists and a steal. Thirteen of those points came in the first half. DeAndre Jordan finished with 18 points and 16 rebounds. Wesley Matthews poured in 20 points. Dorian Finney-Smith, Maxi Kleber and Dwight Powell each finished with 12.
They were the main contributors in the Mavs (2-1) getting above .500 for the first time since April 3, 2016 when they moved to 39-38.
Dallas didn’t win its second game last season until Nov. 7 when it “improved” to 2-10.
“It’s such an important game when you are 1-1 to get to 2-1 instead of 1-2,” Carlisle said. “The metrics of losing that game are very, very difficult. We needed it and found a way.”
Zach LaVine led all scorers with 35 points on 11-of-15 shooting, but Kleber gave him fits in the fourth quarter defensively, and held his own offensively too.
“The [threes] that Kleber hit in the second half were huge,” said Carlisle, whose team was 15-of-47 from beyond the arc.
“We fell a little short today.” Carlisle joked of his team not shooting 50 threes.
Carlisle said the key to the game was holding Chicago (0-3) to under 50 points in the second half. The Bulls scored 48.
“They had some guys that just got crazy going in the first half. LaVine was going wild. [Jabari] Parker got it going (he finished with 20). Second half it was really a battle to see who wanted it more and our guys dug in and, collectively, did a great job.”
The game featured nine ties and 12 lead changes in the first half alone, including seven times in a row with buckets in the second quarter. Overall there were 17 lead changes, the last of which came on the tail-end of a three-point play from Powell to give the Mavs an 85-84 lead in the third. Barea ended the quarter with a 30-foot trey.
“The Barea three at the end of the third was really a decisive shot in getting the crowd into the game, and getting our guys juiced up to go out and get stops,” Carlisle said.
The Mavericks will get a chance to see Trae Young for the first time since trading him on draft night when Dallas faces Atlanta on Oct. 24 at 6 p.m. (ESPN). Young had 35 points and 11 assists on Sunday in a win against Cleveland, becoming the first rookie to record 35 points and 10 assists since Steph Curry in 2010.
Dallas will head into that game without Harrison Barnes and Devin Harris, who will both be out at least the next two games. Barnes continues to make progress after straining his right hamstring during the first week of training camp last month, while Harris strained his left hamstring in the season opener against Phoenix on Oct. 17.
“Friday could be a possibility. He’s had no set backs. He continues to progress. You could see why tonight we desperately need him. Finey-Smith playing 39 minutes is not...
“They are making a lot of great things happen on offense as well,” Carlisle said of Atlanta. “It’s a great challenge.”