Donnie Nelson didn’t just get it right with rookie forward Luka Doncic.
The Mavericks (14-11) never trailed on the night, winning for the 12th time in the last 16 games.
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“This is another Donnie Nelson home run. This guy is terrific,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “He plays a very steady game, a very mature game for a guy who is a first-year player in the NBA. He’s earned everything he’s gotten here.”
Brunson made his third start of the season with Dennis Smith Jr. dealing with a right wrist sprain. Brunson finished with a career-high 17 points, his third consecutive game with double-digit points.
Doing it with Hall of Famer Jason Kidd in the house made it even more special.
“It was pretty cool,” said Burnson, the 33rd overall pick out of Villanova. “It’s always great seeing somebody with a legendary career and he is definitely one of the best. Being able to perform like that in front of him is definitely special, but no matter who is in the crowd and who is watching, I just try and play the same way every time.”
Dallas forward Harrison Barnes had a team-leading 19 points and Dwight Powell had 16.
Doncic had a forgettable shooting night, scoring just seven points on 2-for-11 shooting from the field, including 0-for-5 from 3-point range, but got it done in other areas. He posted career-highs in rebounds (11) and assists (nine).
That’s a positive step for Doncic even if he didn’t replicate the heroics from Saturday’s game against Houston. On that night, Doncic had a personal 11-0 run in a span of two minutes and 11 seconds in the Mavs’ 107-104 victory over the Rockets.
“He’s moving the ball better each game,” Carlisle said. “We know he can make spectacular plays. The key is to be able to do that while involving all of your teammates so guys are constantly involved in the action.”
All the Mavericks moved the ball well against the Magic. The team finished with 28 assists, and also got it done on the defensive end.
The Magic are one of the worst offensive teams in the NBA, and looked that way against the Mavs’ defense.
Orlando’s top two scorers, Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic, combined for just 10 points on 5-of-17 shooting from the field in the opening half. They finished the game with a combined 18 points as each finished 4-for-15 from the field.
Orlando went into the game short-handed. Evan Fournier, who is averaging 15.1 points, sat out for personal reasons and rookie Mo Bamba, the sixth overall pick out of Texas, suited up but didn’t play because he reportedly violated team rules.
Still, it was easy to see a budding chemistry developing on the Mavs with the defensive effort and assists.
“The chemistry is born from hard work, commitment to each other, sacrifices made,” Carlisle said. “The season is flying by and we’ve got to take advantage of every opportunity that we can.”
The Mavs missed a couple opportunities early on. DeAndre Jordan whiffed on two alley-oop attempts in the first four minutes on lobs by Doncic. Eventually the two connected, prompting Doncic to giggle playfully and high-five Jordan.
The Mavs were loose all night, of course, en route to the 25-point victory.
Brunson starred from the start, scoring the first points of the game on a running jumper. Doncic then knocked down a jumper, Barnes drained a 3-pointer and the Mavs had a quick 7-0 lead.
That set the tone for the rest of the game.
Brunson scored 11 points in the first half on 5-of-5 shooting, and Barnes also had 11 points. The Mavs had built a 52-40 lead by halftime, the fewest points the Mavs have allowed in the opening half, and then held the Magic to just 13 points in the third quarter.
“Their defense is good,” Orlando coach Steve Clifford said. “They are 11th in the league. They went under on every pick and roll, they helped, except for D.J.’s [Augustin], they dared us to shoot jumpers and we didn’t shoot the ball well.
“They did a good job and we, obviously, were not as crisp as we needed to be.”