Friday started poorly for the Dallas Mavericks. Early in the afternoon, the team announced that Head Coach Jason Kidd tested positive for COVID-19. Dallas has been ravaged by COVID-19 recently. Eleven Mavericks players and three assistant coaches have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last three weeks.
That news was followed by news that Luka Doncic would not play in the team’s road game against the Houston Rockets due to a sprained ankle.
That meant the Mavericks were without their head coach, leading scorer in Doncic, and their second-leading scorer, Kristaps Porzingis, who was already away from the team due to COVID-19.
Despite being without its leaders, Dallas ended Friday on an extremely positive note by beating the Rockets 130-106 in a dominant fashion to extend the team’s season-long win streak to five games.
The Mavericks (21-18) played exceptional team basketball, with 34 assists, 54% shooting, and six players scoring double-digits. Tim Hardaway Jr. was the leading scorer with 19 points off the bench.
“I think it starts with the head coach,” Hardaway Jr. said postgame, “He’s been preaching to us to play the right way and preaching to us to share the ball, move the ball, get stops, run, play with energy, and go out and compete on both ends of the floor.”
Josh Green was the team’s second-leading scorer with a career-high 17 points, while Reggie Bullock, Jalen Brunson, and Dwight Powell added 15 points each.
Without Jason Kidd, the fill-in head coach was Sean Sweeney, the team’s defensive coordinator. Sweeney’s defensive schemes helped keep the previous five opponents, before Houston, under 97 points. This year, the defense has been the calling card for Dallas, with the team currently holding the NBA’s fifth-best defensive rating (107.1).
Sweeney was an assistant coach with the Detroit Pistons last year. Before that, he coached with Jason Kidd in Milwaukee and Brooklyn. Sweeney was asked postgame if he had ever been a head coach before.
“I have not, no,” Sweeney said. “I might have coached the most games in Summer League history, but not in the regular season.”
Following the win, Mavericks players surrounded Sweeney in the locker room and doused him in water to celebrate.
“It’s a big moment for him,” Brunson said. “He’s going to downplay it; that’s how Sean is. But we were really excited for the opportunity he had, and he stepped up to the plate and made sure we were ready.”
Dallas got off to an explosive start, scoring a season-high 43 points in the first quarter. At halftime, the team had a season-high 80 points. That was the team’s highest point total at halftime of a game since another matchup against the Houston Rockets on July 31, 2020, when the team had 85 at the half.
The Mavericks continued thriving in the second half and never let the victory be in doubt. It was easily the most comfortable win that Dallas has had all season.
After the game, Houston (11-29) head coach Stephen Silas, who spent several seasons as an assistant with the Mavericks, acknowledged that Dallas looked different defensively, despite having many of the same players there during his tenure.
“They’re making people miss,” Silas said. “They’re putting a lot of pressure on the ball. They’re in the right spots. They’re really trying hard on the defensive end.”
“They’re always good offensively and now coming together defensively. But yeah, they’re holding teams under 100, which is crazy in today’s NBA,” he added.