The Dallas Mavericks have gotten off to an odd start this year, getting blown out in their season opener, before coming back and winning a pair of very ugly games. As they hosted the San Antonio Spurs Thursday, Dallas fans hoped the Mavericks would finally put together their first strong win.
Fans got the exact opposite of that, when the Spurs opened the game by going on a 23-3 run in the opening minutes. With many fans complaining that they wouldn’t even watch the rest of the game, the Dallas bench came in and were able to take a 30-29 lead, thanks in large part to backup point guard Jalen Brunson.
“We just needed to change the game up somehow, some way and get the ball going in our favor,” Brunson said after the game. “A couple of guys got in there and tried to pick up the pace a little bit and make the game a little more physical on our end of the floor. We just had to find ways to give ourselves energy and finally get a win.”
Brunson was electric for the Mavericks in the first half, scoring 13 points, while pulling in four rebounds and dishing out three assists. The defense also played a huge role in the comeback, as Maxi Kleber blocked four shots, helping Dallas shutdown San Antonio during their run.
Things began to slow down a bit, as the Spurs were able to stop the Mavericks run and make it an even game for the remainder of the half. Neither team was able to get another run going, and Dallas entered the locker room trailing just 49-47 at the half, after opening the game trailing 23-3.
The second half was completely controlled by Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic, who took matters into his own hands in the final two quarters. Doncic had 18 second half points and made eight of his 11 attempts and also made eight consecutive points down the stretch to help Dallas will their way to another win.
“I was way more aggressive in the fourth than I was in the first two quarters,” Doncic said. “I think that is what I have to do for the whole game.”
For the third consecutive game Dallas got off to an awful start, but were able to work their way back into things, taking the win by a final score of 104-99. “We got off to a slow start. I didn’t think we would get off to that slow of a start, but it happens in this league,” head coach Jason Kidd said. “We were just a little slow to start the game and it’s been like that since the season started. So, we just have to talk about it and address it.”
Once again for Dallas, it was their bench who saved the day, much like they have in their other two wins this season. Brunson and Kleber paced the way for the bench unit, scoring 19 points and 12 points respectively. Brunson also had seven rebounds and five assists, while Kleber had 10 rebounds and a six blocks, tying his career-high.
With Kristaps Porzingis out, Reggie Bullock was inserted into the starting lineup. After having a great game against the Houston Rockets Tuesday, fans were excited to see how Bullock would look playing next to Doncic, though he was less than impressive.
In his debut start, the small forward had just seven points and made two of his six attempts from the field. Fellow started Tim Hardaway Jr. didn’t provide much either, adding six points on 2-8 shooting.
Perhaps Bullock still needs to be in the starting lineup and just needs time to adjust to his new teammates. With Porzingis hopefully coming back soon, he could potentially replace Dwight Powell in the lineup, who had 11 points last night, which included a pair of easy baskets late in the game. In 25 minutes of action Powell had just three rebounds and was unable to block a shot, being greatly outplayed by Kleber off the bench.
Though the win may not have been pretty, Dallas extends their winning streak to three games and improves to 3-1 to open the season. They will have their hands full Friday night as they travel to Denver to take on the Nuggets, a team who is very much a top contender in the Western Conference.
That game is set for 9 p.m. and will air on ESPN.