Jason Kidd wanted to treat the Mavericks’ preseason game against the Hornets as a dress rehearsal.
Dallas’ new head coach will take the same on opening night.
The Mavericks beat the Hornets 127-59 Wednesday in Charlotte’s Spectrum Arena, marking the largest margin of victory in a preseason game between NBA teams since 1995.
Here are three things we learned about the Mavericks in the process — one week and one day before their Oct. 21 season opener against the Hawks:
Kristaps Porzingis looks healthy and energized
Choose almost any statistical category Wednesday night, and Kristaps Porzingis thrived.
He finished with 17 points, nine rebounds, two assists and two steals in 23 minutes while shooting 70% from the field (7 of 10).
He showed the versatility Kidd has aimed to infuse in Porzingis’ role, scoring from 3-point range (hitting 2 of 4 attempts) and from the post. He ran in transition, showed mobility in the defensive paint and appeared to play with what Kidd called a renewed “joy.”
“I’m a player that likes to use the mismatch in the post and then create situations from there,” Porzingis said. “We kind of were going away from that the last couple of years when I was here in Dallas, and I still found ways I can try to be effective and do what’s best for the team with what the coaching staff was asking me.
“But I felt like, yeah, this is a part of my game that I’m not using, and this year, we’re unlocking that.”
Porzingis didn’t play in the 2020 preseason while recovering from knee surgery, and he played limited minutes in 2019, his first with the Mavericks, so there’s little history to consult about Porzingis’ preseason potential translating to regular-season success.
He also missed 29 games last season with various injuries and took on a decoy-style role in the Mavericks’ first-round playoff series.
In short: Viewers haven’t seen much of Porzingis in the last year that will compare with his co-starring role in Kidd’s new system.
But Kidd last week predicted Porzingis to make the All-Star cut if he remains healthy this year, and Porzingis has looked the part in the last two exhibitions.
Off night for Luka Doncic? No problem.
The Mavericks wanted to better support Doncic’s workload this season.
They showed potential in their most important preseason game yet.
Doncic started 0 for 6 from the field Wednesday and didn’t score until two minutes remained in the first half.
The Mavericks then led by 25 points (53-28), and Porizngis emerged as the offensive focal point. Doncic, meanwhile, turned to his passing for production, logging six assists that accounted for 15 points in the first half.
The 22-year-old All-Star finished with 10 points (4 of 14 from the field) in 26 minutes and added four rebounds and eight assists.
Doncic raised his hands to the air after making his first 3-pointer early in the third quarter, as if in thanks for a step-back shot finally falling, but other Mavericks made up for his typical scoring production.
Tim Hardaway Jr. tallied 20 points on a preseason-best 50% shooting, while Dwight Powell contributed nine points and six rebounds as a frequent recipient of Doncic’s assists.
Off the bench, Jalen Brunson (13 points), Sterling Brown (12) and Moses Brown (10 points) reached double figures, too.
“One of the big focuses for us has been chemistry, moving the ball, sharing the ball,” Powell said. “Obviously Luka, even if he doesn’t make every single shot, the threat he presents is huge, and that creates opportunities for everyone else.”
Progress on defense
While the Hornets played without three starters, the Mavericks were also down one of their top defenders.
Reggie Bullock, whom Dallas signed during free agency to boost their defense and 3-point shooting, didn’t travel with the team to Charlotte for personal reasons. Kidd doesn’t expect Bullock will return for Friday’s preseason finale in Milwaukee, either.
Still, the Mavericks defense rolled Wednesday — so much so that the Mavericks’ 50-point lead entering the fourth quarter foiled Kidd’s plan to play starters into the final period.
The Mavericks at times tested their zone defense, and eight players recorded at least one steal, while six added at least one block. Maxi Kleber tallied two of each.
Dallas outrebounded Charlotte 59-43, including 15 on offense, to hold the advantage on the boards for a third consecutive exhibition.
“Not fouling at the rim was something that we’ve been working on and talking about,” Kidd said. “I thought KP, [Powell], everyone participated at the rim, and did a really good job.”