sportsMavericks

At last, Christian Wood’s move to Mavericks’ starting lineup appears imminent

“Sometimes change has to happen,” coach Jason Kidd says, as Dallas prepares to finish road trip at Toronto (Saturday) and Milwaukee (Sunday)

BOSTON – Amid the embarrassment of getting blown out by Boston, the Mavericks bowed up. Amid the ashes of what would prove to be a futile comeback, they found a flicker that perhaps can be kindled into a lasting flame.

At the least, Luka Doncic and Christian Wood combined to provide many Mavericks fans what they have longed to see: Extended time together on the court, 10:15 of the fourth quarter to be exact.

The duo’s diverse inside-outside repertoire helped carve what had been a 27-point deficit to 9 with three minutes left in Dallas’ 125-112 loss, perhaps finally convincing coach Jason Kidd to move summer acquisition Wood into the starting lineup come Saturday in Toronto.

Kidd strongly hinted that will be the case.

“You look at what they did,” he said. “They have a great connection. They did a good job against one of the best teams in the league. So hopefully we can grow from this and we can have those two out there in Toronto.”

One game after playing a season-low 17 minutes, 25 seconds in a home loss to severely short-handed Denver, Wood played a season-high 34:10 on this Thanksgiving Eve night in TD Garden, finishing with 26 points and 12 rebounds.

On a night when Doncic registered his NBA-best fourth 40-point game of the season (42 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds) the Mavericks perhaps discovered a silver lining while allowing 54% shooting and 37 and 31 points, respectively, by Boston’s Jayson Tatum and Jalen Brown.

A rotation shakeup seems in order after the NBA-best 14-4 Celtics extended an 11-point first-quarter advantage to 70-49 at halftime. At 9-8, Dallas is one game worse off than at this point last season.

Wood has yet to start in 15 games as a Maverick, but he politely declined to get pulled into debate about whether he should start.

“I think I’m gonna just keep that that personal opinion to myself,” he said. “But what I can say is I’m enjoying my time here. I love playing for Dallas. These guys, they support me. They pick me up when I have a bad game. So things are going great.”

Kidd all season has said he prefers Wood and Tim Hardaway Jr. coming off the bench, but when asked Wednesday night whether he has softened that stance, he said starting lineup and playing rotation alternatives always are a consideration.

After traveling to Toronto late Wednesday night, the Mavericks planned to share a Thanksgiving lunch for the entire travel party, then practice on Friday before a difficult Saturday-Sunday back-to-back at the Raptors (9-9) and Milwaukee (12-5).

“That’s one of the questions I ask every day to the staff, is ‘Do we want to look at making a change at the starting five?’ " Kidd said. “And so far, that hasn’t happened. But that’s not something that will go away. We’ll talk about it [Thursday]. We’ll talk about it Friday, and we’ll see what happens for Saturday.”

The season began with another offseason addition, JaVale McGee, penciled in at starting center, but incumbent Dwight Powell has started the last eight games.

Where lineup combinations are considered, Kidd described the 82-game regular season as a dress rehearsal for the playoffs – just like last season, when Dallas overcame an 18-20 start, finished 52-30 and made a surprising run to the Western Conference finals.

“You’ve got to look at all the combinations you got to see who’s playing well,” Kidd said. “And just understand that sometimes change has to happen. It’s just the nature of sport.

“There’s no hard feelings or anything personal. This is their job and we’re trying to win ballgames. We’re trying to put the right combinations out there.”

Starting forwards Reggie Bullock and Dorian Finney-Smith, who primarily play defensive stopper roles, are shooting, respectively, 31.2% and 41.3%, and Bullock’s 3-point percentage is (29.5) is well below his 36% of last season.

Add Hardaway’s 31.2% shooting off the bench and it is little wonder the Mavericks for long stretches have been painful to watch offensively, despite Doncic leading the league in scoring (34 per game) and shooting an efficient 50%.

Wood has been even more efficient, shooting 58% from the field and 44.7% on 3-pointers. Only two players rank among the NBA’s top 20 in both field goal and 3-point percentage: Wood and Stephen Curry.

Doncic said that when he and Wood are on the court together it makes double teams a risky proposition for opponents.

“For me it’s easy,” Doncic said. “He’s just passing the ball. He’s going to do a lot of good things. I think it showed today. He was really big for us. He helped us a lot. He’s going to do this a lot of times.

“I know that.”

Here’s betting that come Saturday in Toronto, it finally will be as a starter.

Twitter: @Townbrad

Find more Mavericks coverage from The Dallas Morning News here.

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