Dallas Mavericks

Doncic, Porzingis lift Mavs in opener. But who will score when the dynamic duo is off?

At some point over the next 81 games, Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis will not play like NBA All-Stars.

They are going to have off nights. They are going to need nights off.

The Dallas Mavericks are going to need more than just Doncic and Porzingis throughout the season to reach the NBA playoffs for the first time since the 2015-2016 season.

The other guys just weren’t supposed to be needed on Opening Night.

But they were, at least early on against the Washington Wizards. Early, as in the first eight minutes, before the NBA’s latest dynamic duo jump-started a 108-100 victory at American Airlines Center.

Doncic scored 34 points and grabbed nine rebounds and Porzingis added 23 in their first regular-season game together. It was Porzingis’ first game in 20 months.

“It’s one game,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “This is a long road, and we’ve got to to a lot of things better. But we’ll take 1-0 and move to tomorrow and clean up what we can.”

Doncic, the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year, and Porzingis, a 2018 All-Star, started slowly. Porzingis missed his first four shots, and Doncic had five points when he joined Porzingis on the bench after the first nine minutes.

Porzingis’ first field goal since 2018 came nearly 10 minutes into the game, but it jump-started a stretch of in which he scored nine straight points to end the first quarter with the Mavs down 25-24.

The large supporting cast did its part. Five bench players scored 23 points in the first half, with Seth Curry scoring nine of them during a stretch in which the Wizards went cold from the floor.

The worst of the brick-laying effort came from big man Davis Bertans, whose 3-point try from the left arc caught only glass on the right side of the rim.

“You always want to get your offense off your defense, and those guys were able to get some stops,” Carlisle said.

Meanwhile, Porzingis added a 3 in the second quarter and Doncic returned to drain two rainbow 3s en route to 20 first-half points. He scored the Mavs’ first five points of the second half, a streak snapped by two Porzingis free throws, to push the Mavs’ lead to a cozy 69-50.

“He’s amazing,” Porzingis said of Doncic. “The things he was doing out there ... the kid is super talented. It’s unreal.”

Doncic said that he and Porzingis are still feeling each other out and improving their chemistry. The Mavs played only five preseason games, and players’ minutes are limited as they prepare for the regular season.

They spend time working after practices together, not because the coaches put them together but because they want to do it.

There is room — 81 games of it — for them to get better.

“He does everything,” Doncic said of Porzingis. “He shoots. He rebounds. He can do a lot of stuff. He’s amazing. He doesn’t miss a shot. I enjoy playing with him.”

The Mavs are still going to need a third and fourth scorer to develop. Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said they need everyone to score.

Tim Hardaway Jr. has a chance to be that player off the bench. Jalen Brunson produced some big games late last season. Dwight Powell, who won’t play until the third game at the earliest, could emerge as more of a scorer this season.

Carlisle said that Curry is one of the best shooters in the league.

So, there are candidates to score on those nights when Doncic and/or Porzingis can’t.

“We’re a team that’s going to have to have a certain level of balance,” Carlisle said. “I don’t want a team that’s top heavy with scorers. We need a lot of guys who are double-digit scorers. If we can manage to do that, it makes us harder to play against.”

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After 12 seasons covering the Rangers for the Star-Telegram, Jeff Wilson knows that baseball is a 24/7/365 business and there is far more to baseball than just the 162 games each season. There’s also more to Jeff -- like a family and impressive arsenals of Titleist hats and adidas shoes -- but sometimes it’s hard to tell.
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