The Dallas Mavericks are 6-1 through the first seven games of the 2023-24 NBA season and currently sit in second place in the Western Conference behind the Golden State Warriors (7-1).
Dallas’ only loss this season came on the road against the defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets, and the team has responded with 12-point comebacks in back-to-back days for the first time in franchise history.
“When you look at the small sample size, we’ve played in some close games,” head coach Jason Kidd told the media before Monday’s win over the Orlando Magic. “We’ve talked about it, we’ve worked on it in training camp, and we’ve been able to execute, so I think we’re starting to get comfortable in those situations.”
The Mavericks have been exposed to those situations often in the season’s early stages, leading the NBA with six clutch wins, which the league defines as wins where the scoring margin was within five points during the last five minutes.
“We’re really galvanizing each other and holding each other accountable during the tough situations, which helps our chemistry,” guard Kyrie Irving told the media after Monday’s win against Orlando. “We’re obviously going to play against some great teams in this league that are going to have gameplans to stop me and Luka [Doncic], but it’s bigger than us two, and we know that we need our teammates to play well on both sides of the ball so it’s more of a team game.”
Dallas has turned to a more fast-paced style of play, resulting in more scoring. The Mavericks are currently the fifth-highest-scoring team in the NBA and the highest-scoring team in the Western Conference with 120.7 points per game. Four players average better than 15 points, including offseason acquisition Grant Williams, who is shooting 54.3% from three-point range.
“He’s playing at a high level,” Kidd said of Williams. “His voice has been heard and has been consistent, and we need that. He’s doing a great job for us.”
Kidd has also been impressed with rookie first-round pick Dereck Lively II, who continues to draw praise from coaches and teammates after a good preseason. Lively II was brought in for his defense and already has seven blocks and five steals in seven games while averaging nine points and 7.7 rebounds.
“He wants to be great,” Kidd explained. “He works extremely hard. He’s learning. He’s not afraid in that locker room to speak if he has not played well. He’s someone you can talk to and communicate to. I think with the small sample size, he’s doing everything we thought when we drafted him. … He’s going to have some ups and he’s going to have some downs. That’s just [being] a rookie, but up to this point, he’s doing everything we’ve asked him to do.”
Of course, Irving and Doncic’s coexistence on the court after faltering down the stretch and missing the postseason last season will dominate the headlines this season. However, both have had excellent starts to the season, combining for 51.6 points, 13.4 rebounds, and more than 14 assists per game.
“They’re playing extremely well off one another,” Kidd said of the duo. “It’s seamless, and they’re having fun. Kai’s excited when Luka does something and vice versa. … Their job is to make the game as easy as possible for one another, and you can see that right now.”
The Mavericks aim to earn their seventh win against the Toronto Raptors (3-4) at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday at the American Airlines Center.