While Luka Doncic clearly hasn’t been his best self during the early campaign, the Dallas Mavericks have no level of excitement about moving forth without him. Alas, they weren’t given much of a choice during Wednesday’s road bout with the Phoenix Suns, as Doncic sat with left knee and ankle sprains.
Consequently, the end result was more or less what fans might have expected from the Mavs sans their MVP candidate, as Kristaps Porzingis and Co. were beaten 105-98 at Footprint Center.
For much of the contest, the Doncic-less crew looked to be weathering the storm. Midway through the third quarter, the Mavs owned an eight-point lead. And with just under seven minutes left in the contest, the team still held a two-possession advantage at 86-81.
Meanwhile, the Mavs were on fire from deep, hitting 16 of their 32 three-point attempts, and Phoenix had largely been held in check on the other side of the court.
In the end, though, a 37-point fourth-quarter eruption from Devin Booker and the Suns was too hot to handle. Afterward, Porzingis felt responsible for allowing it to happen.
Porzingis Makes Himself the Fall Guy
In terms of his raw stat line, Porzingis acquitted himself well as the Mavs’ de facto floor leader. He logged 32 minutes against the Suns and put up 21 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, two blocks and a steal.
However, Porzingis also made just seven of his 20 shot attempts in the contest. He claimed to have been a step slow throughout the night, too, while taking responsibility for the loss during his post-game media availability.
“I come out of this game with the feeling that — obviously, it’s team wins and team losses — but I feel like a lot of it is on me,” Porzingis said. “I should have played much better. I had no legs. I left my legs at the hotel or something today…”
That assessment notwithstanding, the Mavs outscored the Suns by nine points when Porzingis was on the court. The team defended better, too, when he was out there; Porzingis’ D-rating for the game checked in at an impressive 95.5. His seven assists were a new career-high as well.
“I had no legs, so I was kind of like, ‘Okay, let me get Tim [Hardaway] involved. Let’s play, let’s move.'”
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His shooting wasn’t great on Wednesday, but Porzingis nonetheless looks to have figured something out recently. Over his last four games, the big man has averaged 26 points per game on 50% shooting overall, 44.4% from three-point range and 93.3% from the foul line.
He has also chipped in with 9.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.5 blocks per contest.
The uptick is well-timed given Doncic’s injuries. Thankfully, though, Dallas may not have to depend on Porzingis to steer the ship for too long. As noted by ESPN‘s Tim MacMahon, the Mavs are “optimistic that Doncic will not be sidelined for an extended stretch.”
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