If this is the formula for winning Dallas Mavericks basketball, buckle up.
The Mavericks exploded for a 20-4 third-quarter run on Thursday then gave up 17 unanswered points to the Philadelphia 76ers to start the fourth. By the time it was done, Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving combined for 82 points as Dallas tied a franchise record with 25 3-pointers. The Mavericks fended off a late 76ers rally for a 133-126 win.
This may not be a sustainable blueprint for winning basketball. But it sure wasn't boring as the Mavericks picked up a much-needed win against a fellow championship hopeful.
Win a reprieve to rough Luka-Kyrie start
Prior to Thursday's win, the Mavericks were 1-4 in games Doncic and Irving played together, an early indictment of last month's blockbuster trade pairing two of the game's most explosive ball dominant guards in the same backcourt. Thursday's win stopped the bleeding while failing to quell concerns about a team built around the high-octane duo without a notable defensive presence. The goal with these Mavericks is simply to outgun the opponent. Outgun the 76ers they did.
The teams traded blows from the opening tip as Dallas opened up a 38-37 first-quarter lead. Things mellowed a bit in the second, and Dallas went into halftime with a 71-67 edge.
Then the Mavericks put on a show. Irving opened the third quarter with a jumper. Doncic followed up with a 3-pointer. Dallas' offense caught fire as it showed what one of the game's most lethal offensive duos looks like when running on all cylinders.
Less than four minutes into the stanza, the Mavericks had posted the 20-4 run to open up a 91-71 lead. But there would be no blowout at American Airlines Center.
Dallas' defense is what it is
The Mavericks traded away Dorian Finney-Smith in the Irving deal and with him their defensive identity. Finney-Smith was regularly tasked with guarding the opposition's best player, a feature that would have been welcome Thursday against a 76ers team that features a bevy of offensive weapons in James Harden, Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris.
Dallas' lack of a defensive stopper was evident as the 76ers answered with 17 straight points from the end of third quarter through the first three minutes of the fourth to cut the deficit to 110-106. Maxey did the bulk of the damage with 10 points during the stretch that largely saw Harden, Embiid and Harris resting on the bench.
Doncic rested too, and the Mavericks failed to answer during the run. When Doncic returned with 9:20 remaining, he and Irving reignited Dallas as the Mavericks closed.
First game with 2 40-point efforts in Mavericks history
Doncic finished with 42 points and 12 assists while shooting 13-of-22 from the field including 7-of-13 from 3-point distance. Irving tallied 40 points and six assists while connecting on 15-of-22 field-goal attempts including 6 of 8 from 3. It was the type of offensive rhythm Mavs owner Mark Cuban surely dreamed of when he green-lit the deal for Irving.
Dallas' defensive woes were likewise on full display. Philadelphia shot 57.7% from the field and 44.4% (12 of 27) from 3-point distance. Embiid, Harden and Maxey all feasted with each shooting better than 50% from the field. Harden finished with 27 points, Maxey tallied 29 and Embiid led the 76ers effort with 35 alongside eight rebounds.
It wasn't enough for the 76ers on a night when Doncic and Irving turned things up to overdrive. The problem for the Mavericks is that they needed almost every ounce of that offensive firepower to walk away with the win.