Defense isn’t always pretty, but it does win games.

And in the Dallas Mavericks 99-86 win over the New York Knicks, it was the overall team defense that stole the show down the stretch.

On a night where Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis struggled early, Dallas’ defense held  Knicks leading scorer Julius Randle to 14 points on 25 percent shooting from the field, and 14 percent from three.

As a team, New York shot a frigid 36 percent from the field. Mavericks defenders flew across the court, closed out on shooters, and mucked up the Knicks’ offensive gameplan. For three quarters New York hung around by committee. But with its leading scorer struggling to find an offensive rhythm, Dallas outlasted the overmatched Knicks in the final eight minutes of the game.

Without Rick Carlisle on the sidelines, due to a postie COVID-19 test, this game already carried a different feel. Dallas needed to win this one differently. And in the end, it did.

New York, on the other hand, came into the game expecting to win on the defensive end. The Knicks have the best defense in the league when it comes to opponent’s points per game. With the 28th ranked offense, New York has to win by slowing down opposing teams. And the effort and tenacity the Knicks played with early clearly affected Doncic and Porzingis.

Yet by the fourth quarter, the Mavericks’ star power prevailed as Dallas brought home its 26th win of the season. Let’s get into some key observations.

Key observations:

1.) Doncic finds ways to not only put up big numbers but make winning plays. He ended the game with 26 points and seven assists, and in the fourth quarter, he was instrumental in staving off a Knicks run.

Doncic has a knack for timing and flair. In every instance where Dallas needs a big basket, he’s involved in some compacity. On Friday, it was a deep step-back three at the end of the shot clock in the fourth quarter that told New York, “great offense beats good defense.”

2.) Assistant coach Jamahl Mosley was thrust into a head coaching role against the Knicks, and he did great. He is one of the league’s top assistants, and it is expected that he will get a head coaching opportunity at some point in the future, but Friday night, he got a chance to audition for that in front of a national T.V audience. He wasn’t rattled. After the game, his coaching performance garnered praise from superstar Doncic.

“He’s got the things that are needed for a head coach. He can be the head coach for sure,” he said.

It’s only a matter of time and team until he gets a chance to call the shots all season.

3.) The typical Porzingis quick starts ended today. He tallied 14 points on 6-17 from the field. And for a majority of the first half, Porzingis couldn’t find consistency on the offensive end. This can be attributed to the Knicks defensive gameplan, which makes life difficult on score first bigs. One off night isn’t a reason to hit the panic button on the Porzingis front.

Looking ahead

Carlisle’s COVID circumstances remain murky. And it is unclear when he will return to the sideline. It is important to note that he has gotten his vaccine for the virus, so there still is a possibility that it is a false positive.

On the basketball front for the Mavericks, defensive performances build character. And for an average defensive team, this type of win builds confidence. And that confidence can only help Dallas as it heads into a slate of games that feature Houston, Milwaukee, San Antonio, Philadelphia, and Memphis. To win against each of those teams, the defense can’t be left in the Big Apple.

Related reading on the Mavericks.

Feature image via  Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports.
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