Don’t look now, but just for once the Dallas Mavericks seemed to finally be clicking on all cylinders. On Thursday night’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving combined for 82 points as the team beat the third best in the Eastern Conference.
This was the most points both players have combined for since joining forces.
It was moments like these, that Dallas had only dreamed of.
So, what is the ceiling for the Dallas Mavericks when both Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving are at full strength? Just how far can they take the team?
Since becoming teammates, the Mavs all-star duo has gone 2-4 . Some key losses include an overtime defeat to the Sacramento Kings, a 27 point collapse to the Los Angeles Lakers, and a struggling performance against the Indiana Pacers.
The biggest struggle for both players has been finding connectivity.
Go back to their second game together. On February 13th against the Minnesota Timberwolves. With 14 seconds left in the game, both players could not figure out the other, as they both played a game of hot potato. The back and forth passing cost the team a chance to tie the game.
On Tuesday, both players thought they fixed the trust issues when Irving took the final shot against the Pacers. While the team fell, it taught them one thing: you just need a little faith, trust and pixie dust. Believing in one another has the biggest issue.
Fast forward to yesterday and the connectivity finally connected as both players made team history being the first two Mavs players to score over 40 points.
So the question remains: Just how good can Dallas be?
That question was halfway answered Thursday. At full strength Dallas has the ability to a top five playoff team in the Western Conference.
Whenever Doncic and Irving get the support from back court players like Tim Hardaway, Josh Green, and Reggie Bullock the sky is the limit.
It is the front court that is concerning. Against Philly, both Dwight Powell, Maxi Kleber and Christian Wood struggled to contain all-star Joel Embiid as he dropped in 35 points.
Wood was expected to be the number two option in Dallas, but since the arrival of Irving his minutes and production have seem to decrease.
Over the last two games, he has averaged 16 minutes a game. Contrast that to the month of January, and he was putting in 34 minutes.
While Irving is great, he is not going to stop players like Nikola Jokic, Domantas Sabonis, or Deandre Ayton. Getting a stable big man is key.
If Wood can get back to his mid-season ways then the team without a doubt is a top three squad in the West. There is hope though the team can have another repeated post season run.
Remember last years playoffs they advanced to the Western Conference using a small ball lineup with Dwight Powell at center. Nothing says they can’t do it again. This time though, it is going to be tougher as other teams in the league have taken a step forward.