Kristaps Porzingis and the Dallas Mavericks welcomed the New York Knicks to the American Airlines Center Friday night, in a collision between two teams that met for the first time since their blockbuster trade last winter.
It was a reunion for more than just Porzingis, as Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee were also part of the January agreement. Dennis Smith Jr. was sent to New York in the trade, but did not show up in tonight's matchup.
Rick Carlisle pulled out yet another starting combination, adding Lee, Dorian Finney-Smith and Dwight Powell to the superstar duo of Luka Doncic and Porzingis.
The Mavericks brought some of the ugly game from their home win to Orlando Magic Wednesday to tonight's contest, and found themselves complaining from behind all night. And while Luka Doncic (a career-high 38 points, 1
Courtney Lee Experiment
Mavericks winger Courtney Lee, who rarely appeared last season after the Mavericks did the Knicks trade, has started three games this season. In two of these matches he did not start the second half. He has not played in a game he did not start.
That's a curious thing, this Lee experiment Rick Carlisle is on. During the season opener, Carlisle explained that Lee had the best band on protecting Wizards star Bradley Beal. It is a reasonably good idea, given that nothing strengthened with the starting group anyway. But overall, Lee has provided little in 27 minutes over three games.
There is still plenty of time for Carlisle to do what he loves: think of the rotations with tweezers and a magnifying glass. But Lee has to start showing something.
Tim Hardaway Jr. Getting a Free Card?
The other former Knicks wing, Tim Hardaway Jr., had pulled together several solid shooting nights from the depths, tonight he was mostly shaking into the void. When he went 5-of-15 from the floor (3-of-10 from three, with two late three), Hardaway shot almost every time he touched the ball.
THJ is now 15-of-48 from the depth, trying to be the third most in the team. It's so much volume with so little texture. And yet it doesn't seem to affect his playing time. So often Carlisle sends role players to bench protection if they so much as make a mistake in a game. But it looks like he's comfortable watching Hardaway pop-a-shotting his way through 23 minutes per game.
Power Forward Play
The Mavericks were eaten alive by the Knicks force of power forward. Marcus Morris looked like a five-time NBA All-Star going for 29 points and nine rebounds. Julius Randle, who notoriously feasts on Mavericks jerseys, went on to disturb Dwight Powell (and sometimes Maxi Kleber) and posted 21 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Even Bobby Portis came off the bench for 14 points and 12 rebounds, dominating parts of the first half.
There have been stretches early in this season where opponents have found weak spots in Maverick's interior and are continually utilizing it. The Mavericks lost this game because nobody outside Doncic and Porzingis could really get going, but their inability to slow down this platoon went crazy.
* Bonus Thing *
[Insert Obscure Sponsor] presents "Coach's Challenge"
Season-long test of Coach's Challenge this NBA season feels bizarre early on in his experiment. It will be interesting to see how things progress and how they are used later in the year when it feels like games have real gravity.
Tonight, both coaches successfully applied their lone challenge to important error calls on key players. The first when Frank Ntilikina tried to end Porzingi's life on the track. KP met him in the air, blocking the dunk attempt, but was initially called what would have been his third foul. Shortly after, Knicks head coach David Fizdale challenged an offensive foul call on Julius Randle, in what would have been his third foul.
Still, I suggest that the challenge may stick after this season if and only if it gets sponsored as one of the no-name college football bowl games and must be announced on the mic by the senior official. "The Mavericks use their PepperoniFurnitureMart.com Coach's Challenge on the last foul call." Let's get messy with it!
Here is the postgame podcast Mavs Moneyball After Dark. If you can't see the embed below "More from Mavs Moneyball" a little further down the page, click here . And if you haven't done so, subscribe by searching "Mavs Moneyball podcast" in your favorite podcast app.