The Dallas Mavericks played their second NBA In-Season Tournament Friday night, blowing out the Los Angeles Clippers in Dallas, 144-126. Dallas fell behind early as James Harden and Kahwi Leonard picked apart the Mavericks’ defense, but the Mavs used a definitive 35-4 run spanning the first and second quarters to seize control of the game and never looked back.
Dallas is now 1-1 in tournament play. They lost their first tournament game to the Denver Nuggets, 125-114, on November 3. The win over the Clippers brought the Mavericks’ tournament point differential, used to determine tiebreakers, to plus-four. Despite the win, not everything went smoothly in Dallas’ first in-season tournament game at home.
ESPN reported Friday afternoon that the Mavericks wouldn’t debut their special in-season tournament court during the game because of manufacturing errors and defects. The teams instead played on Dallas’ core court, which is used for most home games.
“It didn’t meet the league standard, so we can’t play on it,” Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd said of the tournament court before the game. “It happens. We’ve got plenty of courts, so we got one to play on.”
The lack of a special court caused some confusion before the game. After the game, Mavericks All-Star guard Kyrie Irving admitted that he didn’t know it was an in-season tournament game.
“To be honest with you, this is probably my lack of awareness showing right now, but even in that shootaround, I didn’t know it was an in-season tournament game cause I was so used to seeing the court be split in three,” Irving said. “The excitement, I didn’t feel it rising, but coming into the game, it did feel like an in-season tournament game, and it meant something, and you could tell the Clippers knew what was at stake. We knew what was at stake.”
Irving wasn’t the only one who showed some passivity to the tournament aspect of the game. When asked about the tournament win after the game, Dallas star Luka Doncic acknowledged the victory before discussing the team’s overall start to the season.
“We don’t have many games for this In-Season Tournament, so it’s good that we got to pull this one out,” Doncic said. “Every game matters, and obviously we have a lot of [regular season] games, but I think our start [to the season] has been great.”
Even without the court and the matter-of-fact approach to the in-season tournament, the Mavericks are happy with the game’s outcome. The win brings their regular season record to 7-2, the second-best record in the Western Conference.
“I think it was a great bounce-back game. I thought the guys, again, executed the game plan. I thought everybody participated, but I thought Luka set the tone and Kai — those two set the tone tonight, and the guys followed.”