Takeaways from the Mavs-Raptors: Luka and Kidd rise to higher levels

Although the race has been turbulent at times, the Mavericks are the proud owners of a three-game winning streak.

They have a chance to close the five-game stand at home with a 4-1 record on Monday against Brooklyn.

We can all talk about how the Mavericks have had a great chance to win their eight games so far.

They also could have lost a few of those they ended up winning.

So for now, they’re probably where they need to be, which is 5-3 with some quality wins in Brooklyn and at home to Toronto.

What they did was put themselves in a solid position after 10% of the NBA season had passed. Eight games isn’t a big sample size, but so far the Mavericks are doing things very differently from last season.

More on that in a moment.

The Mavericks are rolling offensively and that goes without saying — due to our first of three takeaways from Friday’s 111-110 win over the Raptors.

LUKA PLAYING A DIFFERENT GAME: Luka Dončić had his eighth consecutive game with at least 30 points to start this season. The list of people who have done this is: Wilt Chamberlain, 23 games to start the 1962-63 season. Wilt Chamberlain, eight games to start the 1959-60 season. Luka, eight games to start the 2022-23 season. That’s it. And against the Raptors, Dončić had 35 points, including some ridiculous plays like the one he made late in the third quarter to put him above the 30-point plateau. He sent three times through his legs, did two or three turns, fell back and threw a one-legged shot that went in. It was pure poetry and left the Raptors totally confused as to how to keep Luka. The box-and-one, the double-teams, nothing helped. “Luka plays chess at a very high level,” coach Jason Kidd said, using the thinking man’s game as an analogy for what Luka does to his opponents. ” That’s what he does. He has seen it all, he appreciates the defense which can be changed on the fly to help his creativity. And he also had eliminations, where we had threes on the weak side that didn’t (entered). That makes it special.

CREDIT WHERE IT IS DUE: Kidd, by the way, was right at the start of this season when he was adamant that this was a different team than last year. He’s No. 2 in the NBA in offensive rating and in the middle of the pack defensively. While Kidd hopes the defense will grow teeth as the season progresses, until it does, he’s letting the offense carry the Mavericks. It’s easier to do with Luka. And with their 3-point shot which is so far only average (19e-league best percentage), the Mavericks’ efficiency comes from inside the arc, where they hit more than 59% of their shots, the best in the NBA. They also shot more free throws than anyone else. As Kidd said after the game against Toronto: “Those points matter too.” Interestingly, the Mavericks are embracing two-point shooting, to some extent, after several seasons of analysis backed by the theory that teams had to depend on 3-pointers to succeed at a high level. Maybe these mavericks find an alternative method. It’s clear that Kidd has been able to adapt and his team is too. Making changes like putting Dwight Powell in JaVale McGee’s roster isn’t always easy. But so far, it’s hard to argue with the coach’s decision-making.

SURPRISING – EVEN FOR LUKA: Since we can’t justify any more takeaways that have nothing to do with Luka, here’s another one: he said his moves surprised even him. “Yeah, sometimes I do,” he said. “The best play was my hook shot for sure. I laughed at that one. This happened when the shot clock was running out and he had to fire a shot. He went with the right-handed hook and then said “I like my coffee with a little Kareem.” OK, so Luka’s skyhook was a little more groundbound than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s. The point was well taken. And Luka said his paint attack was something he’s been working on since someone (he didn’t say who) said Luka was unable to master the midrange game. “The reason it started was someone told me I couldn’t pull two pull-ups, so I started shooting them,” he said. “I just attack the painting. The first two games, I relied too much on the three. Another thing I was so happy about (against Toronto) was that I shot 50% from 3. But just going to the paint they were falling apart a lot. Just attacking the painting, that’s my mentality.

Twitter: @ESefko

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