1. ONE WORD – LUKA: No matter how hard they try, NBA defenses just haven’t been able to slow down Luka Doncic. More importantly, he just continues to make his dominance look so matter-of-fact. On Sunday, the Rockets were all in Doncic’s grill, and hounded him all night. The result? Doncic wore out the Rockets for 41 points – one shy of his career high – six rebounds, 10 assists and a pair of steals. It’s the second time in the last four games that Doncic has cracked the 40-point barrier. The second-year point guard played 34 minutes and was 15-of-29 from the field and 5-of-14 from 3-point territory. Doncic joins Michael Jordan, James Harden and Russell Westbrook as the only players to record four straight 30-point, 10-assist games in NBA history. After one 3-pointer, a fan in the stands shouted: “Luka, you a bad man.” And when the game was over and the Mavs were walking to their locker room, Mavs fans in attendance started chanting: “MVP! MVP!”
2. HARDAWAY HELPED SET THE TONE: Tim Hardaway Jr. continues to make a strong case that he should be a permanent fixture in the Mavs’ starting lineup. Hardaway made his third straight start on Sunday and wound up scoring a season-high 31 points. He was 10-of-18 from the field and 5-of-11 from 3-point range, and also collected five assists and two steals in a team-high 38 minutes. The spirited performance by Hardaway — he scored 19 of his points in the first half — comes on the heels of his last two starts. This past Wednesday, Hardaway made his first start of the season and finished with 20 minutes in just 22 minutes against the Golden State Warriors. In that game he was 6-of-7 from the field and 4-of-4 from 3-point land. And in this past Friday’s contest against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Hardaway had 16 points in just 18 minutes and was 6-of-8 from the floor and 4-of-5 from behind the 3-point arc.
3. PORZINGIS IS DOUBLE TROUBLE: Kristaps Porzingis is on a nice roll right now. After collecting 23 points and 13 rebounds Sunday, Porzingis now has five double-doubles in his last six games. The only one he missed in that streak was Friday’s blowout victory over Cleveland when he finished with 17 points and seven rebounds, but didn’t play in the fourth quarter because the Mavs were ahead, 111-71. Porzingis also had three assists, two steals and a blocked shot against Houston, and was 9-of-17 from the field. “Porzingis, this whole week, has been phenomenal,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “His all-around, his defensive rim protection, rebounding, outlet game (was great). And he’s backing it up with a great offensive game with cutting, made open shots, offensive crashes. He made a couple of really good passes (Sunday) and that’s his fifth double-double out of six games, so that’s pretty good.”
4. MAVS MAKE A STATEMENT?: The Mavs entered Sunday’s game riding a four-game winning streak built largely on the shoulders of defeating weak teams such as San Antonio, Golden State and Cleveland. So was the 14-point road win over the highly-touted Houston Rockets a statement game for the Mavs? Not so fast, the Mavs said. “You could look at it that way, but for us it’s just another game,” forward Kristaps Porzingis said. “I know there’s always a rivalry between Dallas and Houston, but it’s just another game. We want to keep it going no matter who’s in front of us, and we want to play our basketball.” Added coach Rick Carlisle: “We’re not going to get over excited. We know we’re capable. We had a complex game plan (Sunday) that our players stuck with through thick and thin, and that was an important aspect to the game. The team is growing. This is a big win, there’s no question about that.”
5. FINNEY-SMITH IS A QUIET ASSASSIN: He does a lot of the dirty work that the average fan probably wouldn’t know about and may not appreciate. But the production and all-out hustle forward Dorian Finney-Smith gives the Mavs is definitely appreciated by his teammates, coaches and management. The four-year veteran was at it again Sunday with 12 points and a season-high tying 10 rebounds, his first double-double of the year. Finney-Smith was 4-of-11 from the field and continues to make huge strides from beyond the 3-point line where he made two of his five attempts from downtown. “I finally got to get on that glass,” Finney-Smith said. “They’ve been boxing me out a little bit more on the offensive rebounds. But since the game was scrambling around so much, I got a lot of loose balls and I ended up with a couple of rebounds.”