NBA Gametime analysts Brian Shaw and Kevin McHale say the Dallas Mavericks, led by the stellar play of Luka Doncic, are a huge challenge for any of their Western Conference rivals.
Doncic scored 41 points and handed out 10 assists to lead the Mavericks to their fifth straight win. In doing so, the reigning Rookie of the Year joined Michael Jordan, Russell Westbrook and James Harden as the only players to record four consecutive 30-point, 10-assist games.
The Mavericks, who rank as the NBA’s best offensive team, have averaged 140.67 points per game over their last three outings.
Reflecting on their road win in Houston, Doncic said: “We did some incredible things today as a team. Harden is an amazing player and we did a job on him.”
Asked about joining Jordan, Westbrook and Harden in their four-game 30-point, 10-assist club, he said: “It’s amazing to hear [my name alongside] the names of those players. But the most important thing was to get a win here in Houston. It was a tough game. We have to keep going like this.”
The Mavericks host the Clippers in the early hours of Wednesday morning and Doncic said their preparation for Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and company would mirror their build-up to facing the Rockets. “Same as today: prepare hard, play good defense and keep attacking,” he said.
Luka Doncic produced 41 points and 10 assists to lead the Dallas Mavericks to a resounding road win over the Houston Rockets
Speaking on NBA TV’s Gametime following the Mavericks win, analysts Brian Shaw and Kevin McHale were impressed by Dallas and their 20-year-old Slovenian superstar.
“The Mavericks are a huge challenge,” said Shaw. “They have Doncic on the ball who, with his size, ability and vision, can see over the defense when he has the ball in his hands. He takes care of the ball, he is efficient in what he does and shoots a high percentage.
“He just makes the right basketball play – when a team devotes too much of their defense to him he finds the open man. He sells you with his eyes and hits the appropriate person at the right time on target. And on top of his scoring and passing, he rebounds as well. He has a knack of being in the right place at the right time and always being around the ball.”
“[Having Doncic] at point guard allows Dallas to start a big line-up, with Finney-Smith, Powell and Porzingis,” said McHale. “He has a nose for the ball and has a feel for where the ball is going to end up, you’ve got to love that.
“The Mavs being big means they can switch a lot on defense. [Mavs coach] Rick Carlisle likes to monkey around with his defense. The year they won the championship they played a lot of zone. When you have five big guys out there, you can do a lot of different stuff. They don’t need a little guard out there because Doncic is their point guard.”
‘Rockets must stop settling for long threes’
While the Mavericks are riding a rich vein of form, the Rockets are mired in a three-game losing streak. Shaw and McHale agreed Houston are not making the most out of situations where opponents double-team Harden and force possession out of the ball-dominant All-Star guard’s hands.
“Teams are double-teaming Harden early in the shot clock. That allows four to play against three in behind. Those guys have got to make basketball plays,” said McHale. “You can’t just keep shooting. It’s four-on-three, drive the paint, find [Clint] Capela at the rim for a dunk or find another wide-open three. The Rockets have got to perfect their offense when the ball is taken out of Harden’s hands and not just settle for the long three all the time.”
Highlights of the Dallas Mavericks’ visit to the Houston Rockets in Week 5 of the NBA season
“The problem is, because Harden handles the ball so much, the other guys don’t get a chance to establish a rhythm in the game. They are standing around in the corner watching his dribble-show,” said Shaw. “That works for them but when teams take the ball out of Harden’s hands, his team-mates haven’t touched the ball for a while and, a lot of teams, he throws them a ‘grenade’ in the last five seconds of the shot clock.”
McHale agreed with his fellow panellist. “When someone throws you the ball with three second to go (on the shot clock), you’ve got to rise up and shoot it. No one yells at you for missing the shot when you get handed a late ‘hand grenade'”, he said.
“But if I throw you the ball with 18 seconds left on the clock and you shoot four times and miss them, are you going to shoot a fifth? Be a basketball player! It drives me crazy when they talk about specialists. You’ve got to be a damn basketball player if you want to win something of significance in our league.
“That means you’ve got to make plays for others, be able to put the ball on the floor and think a little bit. The Rockets are going to find out what their guys can do when James gets double-teamed all the time.”
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