Back on track after avoiding what would have been their first three-game losing streak of the season, the Dallas Mavericks are set to face the Charlotte Hornets at home on Saturday night.
Luka Doncic scored 31 points and grabbed 13 rebounds as the Mavericks earned a 123-111 home victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday. That success came after consecutive defeats to the Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder.
Dallas has just one other two-game losing streak this season, way back in the middle of November — although its play of late has been spotty with a 6-6 record going back to Dec. 8. Doncic missed four of those games, but the team still followed a similar pattern by going 2-2.
In five games since returning to the court, Doncic is scoring 28.0 points per game, just under his 29.1 average. He also has 9.8 rebounds in that stretch and 8.8 assists, on par with his season averages.
Obviously vital to the Mavericks’ success, head coach Rick Carlisle is trying to make efficient use of his superstar’s court time. The 20-year old played a team-high 34 minutes Thursday, but just five of those minutes came in the third quarter.
Well rested for the closing run, Doncic scored 15 points in the fourth quarter as Dallas overcame the absences of both Kristaps Porzingis (knee) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (hamstring).
“We had done this last year, where we’d rest him a couple times in each half,” Carlisle said, according to the team’s official website. “It’s challenging for him because he’s a rhythm player, but in the big picture we need him fresh to close, and he was spectacular in the last four minutes of the game. He had bounce, his shot-making was there, his playmaking was there.”
The Hornets will also enter off a victory, ending a six-game losing streak Thursday with a 109-106 win at Cleveland. The losing streak started Dec. 18 when the Hornets also were visiting the Cavaliers.
Terry Rozier scored 30 points for the Hornets on Thursday, while Devonte’ Graham scored 16 points with 11 assists and hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 23 seconds remaining. Charlotte was clutch down the stretch, overcoming a nine-point deficit with 5 1/2 minutes remaining.
“Staying resilient, staying to it, not hanging our heads,” head coach James Borrego told reporters afterward. “We just stuck with it. Shots weren’t falling. I thought we were getting good looks. We continued to defend tonight. Overall, we weren’t perfect, but we got stops down the stretch. Nine of our last 11 possessions were stops. Rebounds, big shots — you have to give our guys a ton of credit.”
After recording just five victories in December, it was some much-needed success for the Hornets, who now face a Mavericks team that is one of the better squads in a talented Western Conference.
Charlotte is still waiting to find out the status of forward Marvin Williams, who left Thursday’s game in the second half with what was described as “nasal trauma.” Guard Nicolas Batum has not been used by Borrego in any of the last four games.
–Field Level Media