The Dallas Mavericks’ season is coming to an end and there will be no playoffs in 2019.
But instead of sleep-walking out the final two weeks of the season, the Mavs have been getting better and it’s showing on the scoreboard.
Despite Wednesday night’s loss, which snapped their first two-game win streak in more than two months, they rallied from a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter before the Minnesota Timberwolves escaped 110-108 at American Airlines Center when Jalen Brunson’s game-winning 3-point attempt was just off at the final buzzer.
Rookie Luka Doncic, who missed the past two games with a right thigh bruise, was back in the lineup and finished with 27 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. Doncic, who worked free with the final seconds ticking down and the Mavs trailing by two, passed on taking a wide open, potential game-winning 3 from the top of the key and dished to Brunson instead, who had less than a second to get his shot off.
“For me, its not a question. I trusted him. The whole team trusted him,” Doncic said. “It was a great shot. Sometimes it’s not going to go in. You’re not always going to make it. It will go in next time for sure.”
Kristaps Porzingis has started practicing with the starters, coach Rick Carlisle said, which should start to give him a better idea of his roster options for next season.
Porzingis, who was acquired in a seven-player trade with the New York Knicks on Feb. 1, hasn’t played since an ACL injury Feb. 7, 2018. The Mavs announced their intentions from the start to keep him out the rest of the season despite what has by all accounts been a strong recovery.
The Mavs, of course, could have used a healthy Porzingis the past months when they dropped out of the playoff hunt with a 4-13 stretch with losing streaks of five and seven games.
Another acquisition in the Knicks trade, Tim Hardaway Jr., has a been out for two weeks and will miss the rest of the season with a stress reaction in his left leg.
“The new guys who came over in the trade have gotten more and more of a chance to play with our guys,” Carlisle said. “[Porzingis] is playing with the starters, which I think is a good thing for everybody. [Trey] Burke’s done well. Justin Jackson is putting up some pretty terrific games recently. There’s some things we’re working on with him that he’s doing a good job with. Just keep the momentum going.”
Carlisle, meanwhile, said he’s getting a better feel for how he intends to use Porzingis next season. Defensively, he said, Porzingis should be able to guard forwards and centers, “depending on who the guy is next to him,” Carlisle said.
“We’d like to have a 7-foot-3 guy give us rim protection if possible. In which case, he’d guard 5s in a lot of cases, but I expect him to be a 4 on offense.
“With his skill set and the way he moves on the court I believe he’s going to be a good passer. He’ll be a 4 on offense most of the time. On defense, I think he has the flexibility to play both positions.”