Let’s face it, the Dallas Mavericks didn’t look good last night. The team struggled to generate offense. And key starters under contributed for a majority of the game. Guys like Dwight Powell produced three points in 18 minutes while being completely hesitant to shoot (1-3 from the field). The lack of offensive efficiency killed the Mavs in game one, and the guy leading the way was Luka Doncic.

What’s up with Luka:

Doncic’s first quarter saw him go 2-9 from the field and look a step slow when pushing the ball in transition. He didn’t get to his usual spots on the floor. He was also visibly frustrated with the lack of makes at the rim. There was a possession early in the first quarter where Doncic missed three straight layups at the rim and turned to the bench in dismay. That action characterized the entire first half for the Mavericks’ offense.

Doncic finished the game with 32 points, eight rebounds and five assists. But those 32 points didn’t feel as impactful as they usually would. The third quarter saw him pick up his play, contributing 11 points to his total, and we got to see a semblance of last season’s Luka-Magic.

speaking of third-quarter magic, remember this pass?

Luka wasn’t his usual self last night, and the game was still close. He didn’t make a single three in the entire game, going 0-6. That doesn’t happen often.

The Suns are projected as a playoff team this season. So frankly, last night’s loss wasn’t as bad as some are making it out to be. The Mavs were still in the game with Luka a step slow and the team shooting a combined 9-37 from three. Meanwhile, the Phoenix Suns had Devin Booker and an on-fire Mikal Bridges. Oh, and the Suns still had the ‘point god’ Chris Paul making decisions in the fourth. It wasn’t a terrible loss, and the competitive nature of the fourth quarter showcased resilience in this Mavericks team.

Jalen Brunson’s fourth quarter:

The Mavs can thank backup guard Jalen Brunson for keeping the team in the game during the fourth quarter. Brunson tallied 12 points and two assists on 62 percent field goal shooting.

There was no quit in his game, and he single-handedly picked up where Luka and company were struggling. It was impressive to see the way he commanded the offense and had a willingness to create his own shot when nothing else was working on a given possession.

This shot late in the fourth quarter was extraordinary.

If Brunson keeps this level of play up, he might find himself in a secondary playmaker role – something that Luka needs desperately. He is crafty, and he could take the next step forward this season. Hopefully, he keeps this level of play up, at least until Kristaps Porzingis gets back.

“I felt great,” Brunson said after the game. “it felt good to be out there. In the fourth quarter, I picked it up. I am proud of the way we fought. This was the first step, but the team will get it right.”

Looking ahead:

The name of the game for Dallas is finding its efficiency. Doncic has to be better, and he knows it himself.

“That was my bad,” Doncic said after the game. “I have to stop taking these very bad shots. It’s not good for me, and it’s not good for the team.”

For Dallas to succeed, Doncic needs to find his efficiency. And with how great he is as a player, I don’t think he will struggle in primetime games for long this season. For now, it’s on to the Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas day.

Feature image via Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

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