The smartest play for Kristaps Porzingis would have been to stay in that L.A. strip club. He’s making it rain more there than on the basketball court.
DFW’s rapidly growing favorite target for disdain is not doing himself any favors in these playoffs as the series we feared finally showed up.
Friday night was the biggest crowd for any event at the American Airlines Center since March 11, 2020 and despite the fun and festive atmosphere provided by the 17,705 for the chippy game they couldn’t play defense for the Mavericks.
The Mavericks now lead the series 2-1 with Game 4 on Sunday night; Friday was the Mavs first home playoff game since April 23, 2016 when they lost Game 4 of their first round series against Oklahoma City.
We can pump up Dorian Finney-Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr., but the Mavericks are not going to win this series if Porzingis doesn’t get it together.
The Mavs and head coach Rick Carlisle can’t hide from that reality, and any explanation why Porzingis is not producing sounds like an excuse.
In Game 3, Porzingis was not a unicorn. He was a donkey. And not the good kind.
In 33 minutes, the highest-paid player in the history of the Dallas Mavericks scored nine points.
That’s nine points as in single digits.
KP, aka Kan’s Play, was 3-of-10 shooting with three rebounds and four assists.
This was against a Clippers lineup that went “small,” which gave him countless good matchups that he was unable to do anything with.
“Below what I can, obviously. Just frustrated at the moment and trying to keep my head in the right place,” he said after the game on a Zoom call with the media. “Just keep going [to do] the right things I can do on the defensive end, offensive rebounds and keep myself engaged and doing what I can do to help the team.”
Any one of those things would be welcome.
In these three playoff games, he’s averaging 14.3 points on 42.5 percent shooting and 3.7 rebounds per game.
Of all of the statistics, the rebounding figure is most offensive. The man is 7-foot-3.
The problem is he often prefers to play like he’s 6-foot-3.
At one point in the third quarter Carlisle called a timeout and the entire team took to their normal seats on the floor in the huddle. Meanwhile, sitting by himself on the bench was Porzingis who appeared to be receiving some positive reinforcement from assistant coach Darrell Armstrong.
Maybe Porzingis is playing hurt again. Maybe Porzingis is scared. Maybe Porzingis is a head case. Maybe Porzingis’ confidence is shattered.
Whatever the case, the Mavs can’t move forward too far if he keeps “this pace.”
While the Clippers received balanced scoring production from their two best players — Kawhi Leonard and Paul George — the Mavericks had Luka Doncic.
Leonard and George combined to score 65 points on 24-of-35 shooting. They were actually better than their stats indicated.
Luka Doncic scored 44 points with nine rebounds and nine assists. And five turnovers.
With the Mavs trailing early in the fourth quarter, and Doncic on the bench, they ran all of their offense through Porzingis with postup opportunities
He had the matchups. He missed the shots.
With a little more than seven minutes remaining in the game, he came up with an offensive rebound that the Mavs turned into a Jalen Brunson 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 97-94.
Alas, that was about it.
I asked KP if he was just trying too hard, and pressing.
“No, I wouldn’t say so. That game wasn’t going my way. I wasn’t trying to force nothing,” he said. “If I have those mismatches I have to be able to utilize those. I have to convert. I want to be better and that’s it.”
Porzingis knows he’s become a target, and he’s smooth in front of a camera. He says the right things, and he’s at least verbally accountable.
There is no reason why a player this talented who has averaged 20 points a game in multiple NBA seasons now looks liked a fractured egg.
But he does, and it’s a problem.