Against San Antonio on Friday night, for the first time this NBA season—and for one of the few times in their two-ish years together—Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis looked like the fearsome inside-out combo the Mavericks envisioned when they agreed to send off two first-round picks to the Knicks to bring Porzingis (and Tim Hardaway Jr.) to Dallas.
Porzingis followed up his strong effort against the Bulls (22 points, 12 rebounds) on Wednesday with his best outing since the middle of last season, scoring 32 very efficient points on 12-for-22 shooting, grabbing seven rebounds and recording three blocked shots.
Doncic also scored 32 points, marking the fourth time the two players have each topped 30 points in the same game. The last time came in February, during a win against the Pelicans in which Dallas scored 143 points.
Getting a game like this, even if it came against the undersize Spurs, could prove to be a milestone for the Mavericks, who have been waiting for Porzingis to round into shape after he struggled out of the gates, then missed five games with a back injury. The team is short on depth and badly needs its two biggest stars to be at their best.
Coach Jason Kidd, in his first season, said the team had a strategy to get both going from the beginning.
“I thought those two, we started off by getting those guys in the post right off the bat and playing inside,” Kidd said, “which I think set the tone after the last two days of talking about the paint and being able to score in the paint. We know we can shoot 3s and so those guys, I thought had great carryover.”
Porzingis Played Some Center
One of the tastes of success the Mavericks had was with Porzingis on the floor as the only big guy—something Mavericks fans have been clamoring to see because of the struggles of the Dallas centers, especially starter Dwight Powell. Kidd has been reluctant to use Porzingis as his center, though, this season.
Porzingis has been strong in four games since returning from the back injury. He has averaged 21.8 points on 50.0% shooting, adding 8.5 rebounds going back to November 6. Kidd shrugged off the notion that he was moving toward a smaller lineup, but said the focus was to start Porzingis in the post.
“We had him out there as the only big but Dorian (Finney-Smith) is not small and Luka is not small,” Kidd said. “If you were to ask, if the Lakers put out AD and LeBron, are they small? Both are about the same size. But yes, the only big we had out there was KP and I thought KP was aggressive from the first play. Being able to get him a touch in the post, even though he didn’t make it, it just set the tone for him and he was aggressive when he was on the floor.”
Dwight Powell Could See Reduced Role
Despite Kidd’s nonchalance on the smaller lineup issue, the hope has to be that the Mavericks will start using Powell in a more limited role. He played only 15:33, the fewest minutes he played all season, and which is probably the right amount of playing time for him.
For the season, the Mavericks’ offensive rating has been 104.5 points per 100 possession when Powell is on the floor, according to Basketball-Reference.com, and 109.4 when he is off the floor. Defensively, the Mavs have a rating of 114.2 when Powell is playing and a robust 103.2 rating when he is off the floor.
That gives Powell a net rating of minus-15.9.