Luka Doncic and his teammates remind Jason Kidd of the last Dallas Mavericks team to advance to the playoffs.
The coach was now point guard when the Mavericks split the first four games of the 2011 playoffs against the Portland Trail Blazers. He remembers people who thought Dallas couldn’t even get out of that series.
Instead, the Mavericks won the next two games and never looked back. They defeated the two-time defending NBA champion Lakers in the next round and defeated Miami in the NBA Finals to win the title themselves.
This year, Dallas again started 2–2, then took two straight wins with a 98–96 victory by the Utah Jazz. on Thursday night. The current Mavericks don’t have the experience and may not have the talent of their title team, but Kidd said they are a special group.
“They really believe, big or small – we’re not big enough – but they find a way to win and they have fun doing that,” Kidd said. “And hopefully it gives us the confidence to go up against the best team in the NBA right now.”
That would be the Phoenix Suns, the No. 1 seed after finishing 64-18 for the best NBA record. They also wrapped up their series with a Game 6 win on Thursday in New Orleans and will host the Mavericks in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals on Monday.
“I think we have to play our best basketball,” Doncic said. “They were in the finals last year, the No. 1 team this year, so it’s going to be really tough. The crowd really lets them go, so I think we have to play our best basketball to beat them.”
Doncic always plays well season after season, but has yet to result in a series win. The Mavericks lost to the Los Angeles Clippers in the last two years, even though they averaged over 31 points in both.
The Mavs had to open the series without their All-Stars, having missed the first three games with a calf strain that built up on the final day of the regular season. Once he returned, he averaged 29 points and 10.7 rebounds.
Unlike those previous series, when it seemed at times Doncic had to do it all alone, he shared the scoring load against the Jazz. Jalen Brunson followed up with his best-ever NBA season—and averaging 27.8 points—and established himself to cash in well into the off-season.
This happened after he did not play in the 2020 series and played poorly in the last four games last year as the Mavs took a 2-0 lead.
“Pretty much I’ve been in the past two years,” Brunson said. “This year is different for me and trying to keep it going and help my team win.”
Along with Doncic, Brunson and midseason takeover Spencer Dinwiddie, the Mavs’ strength is their three-guard lineup. Even so, Dallas rarely looks aggressively explosive.
Instead, it’s a defense that allowed 104.7 points just behind Boston for the best in the NBA, giving the Mavericks a 52-30 record and the No. 4 seed in the West. Now they will see what they can do against the Sun.
“We’re not going to be a fancy group,” Kidd said. “We don’t have a lot of big names – Luca is the one that gets the most attention – but JB, Dorian (Phinney-Smith) and Reggie (Bull) and those guys really, really believe in the team, and That’s what helped us win this series.”
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