In the Luka Doncic versus Trae Young debate, Doncic won this round, making Wednesday night’s game so much sweeter.

The Dallas Mavericks took down the Atlanta Hawks 122-116 in a game that can be labeled as a must-win for everyone on the Dallas roster.

The Mavs came into Wednesday night’s affair eager to put the six-game losing streak behind them. And from the opening tip-off, each player on Dallas’ roster played as though their individual lives depended on the outcome of this game. There was a sense of urgency that hadn’t existed until this point in the season. Everyone looked engaged and finally playing for each other. And after the game, all Tim Hardaway Jr could tell the broadcasting team was, “sometimes you got to go through the fire to be a great team.”

Dallas earned its stripes during the losing skid. Now it’s time to prove that what Hardaway Jr. asserts is true – all great teams have to go through the fire to come out better than before.

The game by the numbers:

Coming into the matchup with Atlanta, Dallas’ primary concern was limiting the impact of Young, who before Wednesday averaged nearly 36 points a game in the last five contests. Against Dallas, he only scored 21 points on 18 shots. He did dish out nine assists, but overall the Mavs were able to mitigate Young’s total impact on the game. Young gave Mavs fans a real scare in the fourth quarter when he nailed a deep three to cut the lead to just three points. However, Kristaps Porzingis would answer with a tip-in. From that point, the Mavs simply played the free-throw game to outlast the Hawks.

Doncic led the way in scoring for the Mavs with 27 points. He also chipped in with 14 assists. And he also grabbed eight rebounds. Yet, he wasn’t alone in his offensive efforts for Dallas.

An aggressive Porzingis:

Porzingis played arguably his most complete game since coming back from his knee injury this season. The big man tallied 24 points and 11 rebounds. He made impactful plays around the basketball and looked comfortable on the floor. Though Porzingis shot 1-6 from three, he didn’t settle for standing on the perimeter just allowing the offense to come to him. He asserted himself and scored in the mid-range and around the basket. That is something Mavs fans have begged him to do since coming back from his injury.

This version of Porzingis is visibly different than what many have seen all season. It goes to show that with knee injuries having patience is paramount. The question going forward is how consistent is his play going to be?

Dallas defensive questions:

Though the Mavs won, things were not perfect. The team gave up 35 points and 12 rebounds to Atlanta Hawks’ forward John Collins. On the game, he went 16-21 from the field and 3-4 from three. He seemed to have his way on the floor. But that can also be attributed to Dallas’ schematic defensive plan. When doubling Young and forcing the ball out of his hand, Dallas had to give up points somewhere. However, what is important to see is a commitment to staying in defensive communication, and “helping the helper” in those situations.

Regardless, Dallas’ defensive gameplan was just enough to squeeze by Atlanta in what felt like a playoff game atmosphere.

Looking forward:

Well, the pain is over, at least for now. With the win, Dallas improves its record to 9-13, and the climb back into contention is on. If this win proves anything it’s that with a full roster, Dallas can compete with anyone in the league.

When looking at the Young and Doncic debate, Luka outlasted Atlanta’s point guard today. It was fitting because the narrative coming out of Atlanta was that due to recent struggles by the Mavs, Doncic is an empty stat-padder. He put that to bed. Doncic plays winning basketball, and he’s won at every level in his career thus far.

It feels good that Dallas is back in the win column. Now it’s a matter of keeping this level of play up against the Warriors on Thursday.

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Feature image via Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports.
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