The Dallas Mavericks were shorthanded Saturday night, but that didn’t slow them down.
They followed two consecutive road victories with a 112-98 home victory against Orlando even though starters Josh Richardson and Dorian Finney-Smith as well as backup point guard Jalen Brunson were sidelined by COVID-19 protocols.
None of the players returned with the team to Dallas after a 124-117 overtime win at Denver on Thursday because an unidentified one of the three players tested positive for the virus. On Sunday, ESPN reported that forward Maxi Kleber tested positive for COVID-19 and the team shut down its facility while contact tracing was being done.
Against Denver, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke each had a season-high in points as Hardaway scored 36 and Burke had 29. Luka Doncic added a triple-double with 20 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
“We’re trying to win every game whether we have six players or 15,” Doncic said. “But I think we did a great job.”
Burke made seven of eight 3-pointers as the Mavericks made 20 of 40 against the Magic, who were tied for the fewest 3-pointers allowed per game coming in.
“Trey Burke was spectacular. Hardaway was spectacular,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “Luka, you almost expect him to go for a triple-double type night. And we had a lot of other guys do a lot of good things. A really important win coming off the situation in Denver.
“It all started with Luka. He was really dialed in. He understood exactly what the situation was. He knew this was a game where we couldn’t have a lot of slippage. And he set the tone. That’s the sign of a guy who is a great leader on a team.”
Dallas, which swept the four-game season series against New Orleans last season, got a dose of encouraging news ahead of the game. Forward Kristaps Porzingis has been upgraded and could make his season debut against the Pelicans after missing the first nine games recovering from offseason knee surgery.
The Pelicans, who lost the final three games of a four-game homestand, are beginning a seven-game road trip.
“We’ve got a long road trip,” guard Josh Hart said. “We’ve got to fix it now so we can stop the bleeding.”
First-year coach Stan Van Gundy began training camp with an emphasis on improving the team’s defense.
New Orleans won three of its first five games, allowing fewer than 100 points in each of the victories, but it allowed more than 110 points in each of the past four games.
“Over the last four games, we’ve had very little defensive mentality and defensive disposition,” Van Gundy said. “We can’t get stops. We’ve got to get a lot better at the defensive end of the floor. I think we should be a good defensive team.
“I think we should be a top ten defensive team. Over the last four games, we’re a bottom ten defensive team. That can’t be us.”
Van Gundy also lamented the Pelicans’ turnovers. They committed 19, leading to 27 points, in a 118-110 loss to Charlotte on Friday.
“That has got to stop,” Van Gundy said. “We can’t be a good team in this league when you just turn the ball over — unforced turnovers and just giving the ball away. It makes it tough to win. Your margin for error is small.”
Van Gundy said his team can be successful if it’s a top-10 defensive team and climbs into the top half in fewest turnovers.
“If we can do those two things, we’re going to be good,” he said, “but those are big asks right now.”
–Field Level Media