We just witnessed one of the greatest Playoff games and performances in Dallas Mavericks history. Luka Doncic dropped and 43-point triple-double and hit the game winning shot at the buzzer in overtime.
You can’t get much better than that.
Even though the Mavs were without Kristaps Porzingis, faced a 21-point deficit, and were being led by a star who was playing through an injury, they never stopped fighting. They showed guts tonight, and that was one thing we felt was missing many times in the regular season.
The Mavericks struggled with two things this season: physical defense and crutch-time execution. Through four games in this series against the Clippers, those two things haven’t really been a problem. And if they’ve overcome those two hurdles, I don’t know what else can stop them.
In this episode of Dallas Hoops Fancast, we talk about Luka’s amazing game, Paul George possibly taking shots at the Mavs in his post-game comments, the big contributions they got from Trey Burke and Seth Curry, and the shooting struggles of Maxi Kleber.
In 2013, the Golden State Warriors were a young team with two stars. They were a mediocre defensive team and couldn’t win close games.
Two seasons later, they were NBA Champions.
There are more than a few similarities between those young Warriors and the current Dallas Mavericks: just as Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson were rounding into a dynamic duo, Luka Doncic is making his mark on history and Kristaps Porzingis is fitting in as the Robin to the Luka Batman.
But the similarities go deeper.
Dallas Mavericks: Golden State Warriors 2.0?
The Warriors of 2012 were not a defensive powerhouse by any means. They were 26th in Defensive Rating, and the following season they were 12th. The 2020 Dallas Mavericks will likely finish the season somewhere around 17th in Defensive Rating.
Those young Warriors also struggled to win close games. In 2012, their Net Rating in clutch situations was 29th. The Mavericks are currently 23rd.
The Golden State Warriors made the NBA Playoffs in 2013 for the first time in five seasons. The Mavericks are set for their first Playoff appearance in four seasons.
A young team. Poor defense. Struggles in the clutch. On the cusp of their first NBA Playoff experience. The Mavs can learn a lot from those Warriors teams. If history repeats itself – and it often does – the Mavericks might not be as far away from a Championship as we think.
What Can the Mavericks Learn from the Warriors?
So, what can Mavericks fans glean from the last home grown dynasty?
It’s that if you have the right pieces, going from a lottery team to an NBA title doesn’t take as long as you might think.
Look at the Warriors’ timeline leading up to their 2015 Finals appearance:
Lost 2nd Round
Lost 1st Round
Could we be two or three seasons away from seeing a second Larry O’Brien trophy in Dallas?
3 Things That Can Make the Mavericks Champions
There were three major changes the Golden State Warriors underwent that took them from a young, unproven team, to an unstoppable force.
The Dallas Mavericks will need to experience those same changes.
Luka Doncic Needs to Become an MVP
By 2013, Steph Curry was averaging nearly 23 points per game and establishing himself as a lethal 3-point shooter. He finished 7th in Win Shares and even finished in the top 10 in votes for Most Improved Player.
Then, in 2015, he took his game to a whole other stratosphere. Suddenly, he could seemingly will the ball to do whatever he wanted it to. A step-back 3-pointer from the logo – swish. A behind-the-back pass to the corner – smooth. Dribbling through three defenders for a shot while barely seeing the rim – count it.
Jarrod Castillo, Warriors beat writer for Sportsnaut.com put it this way: “He was more demonstrative and more of a true point guard in the sense that he was able to read what was going on on the floor and properly direct his teammates.”
We know Luka can score whenever he wants, and we’ve seen his amazing passing ability. But we saw him take his game to a whole other level in their recent game against the Milwaukee Bucks. The firm control of the offense that he had in that game is what an MVP displays on a nightly basis.
Steph also stepped up his skills. “He just learned how to play farther and farther away from the basket,” said Jarrod. He took one skill and raised it to another level.
Luka’s stepback shots always make Sportscenter highlight reels. But there’s room for improvement if he’s going to continue shooting those. He needs to improve his 3-point shooting to at least 35%. If he can do that, I expect him to set some astonishing records.
The Mavericks Must Become a Top 5 Defensive Team
For years, the Warriors were known for being all offense. Coaches like Don Nelson and Keith Smart weren’t very concerned with defense.
The Warriors finished the 2012 season with the 26th worst defense in the league.
By 2015, they had the best defense in the league.
The Mavericks are ahead of the Warriors here. Their defense isn’t elite, but they’re about in the middle of the league.
Part of the growth for the Warriors was because of roster changes. They drafted Klay Thompson and Draymond Green – two great defenders. They traded for Andrew Bogut and signed Andre Iguodala – two All-NBA defenders.
Do the Mavericks have those kinds of players right now?
Kristaps is currently 55th in Field Goal Differential, Dorian Finney-Smith is 43rd in that category, and Maxi Kleber is 67th. (That’s among players who have played at least 50 games.) Those are their three best defenders. His last healthy season, Kristaps would have been 17th in Field Goal Differential if he had gotten to 50 games.
Whether it’s roster moves or player development, the Mavs will need to take their mediocre defense up several notches if they want to win a Championship. They’ll need at least one top 10 defender.
They Must Learn How to Win Close Games
As a young team, the Warriors struggled in the clutch. In 2012, they were 29th in Net Rating during clutch situations. The following season, they improved to 10th. By their Championship season, they were the third-best team in the clutch.
Learning how to execute in close games often comes down to two things: experience and confidence.
It takes time to learn how to execute in those situations and to gain the confidence to deliver when the pressure is on.
In this case, the Mavericks just need time. There’s no rushing it. Who knows if they’ll gain enough experience and confidence this year or next year? For the Warriors, it took Steph Curry 4-5 years before he became the clutch sniper that we know now.
The good news is, it looks like Luka is way ahead of that timeline, but there’s still some room to grow. How long will it take for the rest of the Mavs to catch up?
How Far Away Are the Mavericks From a Championship?
The answer to that question is easier to predict than you might think. It comes down to these three questions:
How far away is Luka from being an MVP candidate?
Considering he was in the conversation this year already, I’d say we can expect him to jump into the top three within one or two seasons.
How far away are the Mavericks from having a top five defense?
They currently hover around 15-17th in Defensive Rating. They’re potentially one or two players away from being in the top 10.
How long will it take the Mavericks to learn how to win close games?
This one is impossible to predict. It takes time. And some players never gain enough skill or confidence to do this. However, with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, plus Rick Carlisle as the coach, I think this will happen sooner rather than later.
Could the Mavericks contend for an NBA title in three years? Much of that depends on what moves the front office makes. But if the story of the Golden State Warriors teaches us anything, a Finals appearance might not be far off. After all, the Warriors were eliminated in the first round of the Playoffs the year before winning it all.
In the Dallas Mavericks’ 136-132 win over the Milwaukee Bucks, Luka Doncic put on an absolutely amazing display of passing and scoring. He finished with 36 points, 19 assists, 14 rebounds. He’s the only player in NBA history to put up those numbers in a game. Only player. Ever.
This game was insane to watch. There were so many highlight plays from Luka. The rest of the team also stepped up. Dorian Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber played stellar defense and hit some big shots. Kristaps Porzingis struggled with his shot, but he was a steadying force for stretches of the game.
The Mavericks have struggled with closing out games. Did they shake their clutch demons in this game? Are we seeing the evolution of Luka and these young Mavericks?
It would appear the Mavericks figured something out. The Bucks have the best defense in the league, in part to all-world defenders like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton. Heck, even Brook Lopez is a force in the paint. But the Mavs put up 136 points and Luka had one of the greatest performances in NBA history.
In this episode of Dallas Hoops Fancast, we react to Luka’s historic performance, talk about the Mavs’ offensive scheme and how they toppled the best defense in the league. We also shine a light on the role-players that stepped up for the Mavericks and look ahead to see what’s in store for the rest of this season, the Playoffs, and the future.