The Suns won 37 games from New Year’s Eve until the end of the regular season, while the Mavs won 36 games.
“It shows that we’re playing pretty good basketball when you can be compared to the Suns,” coach Jason Kidd said. “But Memphis is playing at a high level.
“There’s a lot of teams out there that are playing really good basketball and we’re fortunately one of them.”
The Mavs were 16-18 on Dec. 29 after losing on a three-pointer at the buzzer to the Sacramento Kings, 95-94. Since then, they racked up a 36-12 record, while the Suns were 37-11 at that same juncture.
“It says that honestly we had a better second half of the season,” guard Jalen Brunson said following Sunday’s 130-120 win over the San Antonio Spurs. “We finished better than we started.
“We were just able to kind of re-focus after Jan. 1 and get the job done.”
The Mavs got the job done, Kidd said, because of the trust the players had among each other and in the coaching staff, and because of accountability.
“The things that we talked about when the season started — being able to trust, being able to listen, being able to execute (led to the success),” Kidd said. “A lot of things happened in one season with Covid, injuries, rest, different coach, coaching, a lot of different things. But we all stayed together.
“This is a unique team when you talk about team, because they all believe and trust in one another and know that they need each other. As much as we can talk about Luka (Doncic), he needs those other four guys on the floor and they need him, so that’s a cool thing.”
“I was okay,” Popovich said. “For once. I wish I was more correct about my team.
“(The Mavericks) are one of the best defensive teams in the league — team defenders. They’ve got some good individual defenders. Even Luka’s trying.”
Popovich noticed something else about the Mavs, who finished the regular season 52-30 in Kidd’s first year as the team’s coach.
“Obviously, they can score, and they’re talented,” he said. “But you don’t go anywhere if you don’t play D once the playoffs begin.
“(Kidd has) made a great effort to set some standards and they’ve bought in. And they can get even better as time goes on, so the future is very bright.”
THE TECHNICAL FOUL CLOCKS STARTS OVER: Now that the Mavericks were able to dodge a bullet and get Luka Doncic’s 16th technical foul rescinded, which enabled him to play in Sunday’s regular season finale against the Spurs, how do they “protect” him once the playoffs start.
“We haven’t talked about that,” Kidd said. “I want to make sure I get all the rules right before we talk.
“I think you only see six T’s for not just this (first-round playoff) series, but throughout the run, so we’ve got to use those wisely.”
Doncic received his 16th technical foul Friday against Portland, which would have made him suspended from Sunday’s game against the Spurs. But the NBA rescinded the technical foul, making Doncic eligible to play against the Spurs.
“The thing about what took place (Friday) is I didn’t know if it was getting rescinded or not,” Kidd said before Sunday’s game. “But we have to be a little bit more conscious of when we use those T’s (in the playoffs), if we use any of them.
“So we’ll go with hopefully he only use one or two and not all six.”
That drew laughter from the assembled media.
First things first, however, when it comes to Doncic, who suffered a left calf strain late in the third quarter of Sunday’s game against the Spurs.
POWELL THE IRON MAN: Dwight Powell became the first Mavs player since Yogi Ferrell performed the feat during the 2017-’18 season to play in all 82 games.
Powell joins Saddiq Bey (Detroit), Mikal Bridges (Phoenix), Kevon Looney (Golden State) and Deni Avdija (Washington) as the only players to play in each of their team’s 82 games this season. It was an amazing accomplishment for Powell, who suffered a season-ending torn Achilles injury during the 2019-’20 season.
The feat by Powell was acknowledged in a tweet from Brooklyn Nets All-Star forward Kevin Durant, who used his Twitter account to tweet: “S/O Dwight Powell, made that Achilles recovery look like nothing. Love.”
Kidd described Powell’s 82-game season as “incredible from what the injury he’s come back from, which is even nice that a player from another team recognized him. You talk about Kevin Durant’s tweet, which is so cool because they’ve kind of gone through the same situation.”
Durant suffered a torn Achilles injury during Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals when he was playing for the Golden State Warriors.
DIRK’S BOOK SIGNING: Dirk Nowitzki was on the American Airlines Center plaza signing copies of his new book prior to Sunday’s game. The book is titled: The Great Nowitzki, Basketball And The Meaning Of Life.
Coach Jason Kidd and Nowitzki were teammates when the Mavs won the 2011 NBA title, and said he has no doubt that the 14-time All-Star will go down as one of the greatest players in NBA history.
“I think when you talk about Dirk, his leadership, his love of the game, the way he changed the game for bigs being able to shoot the three, he’s a competitor,” Kidd said. “He always respected his opponents, his teammates, his coaches.
“When you look at what he’s done in 50 years of playing basketball he is going to be known as one of the greatest of all time, and that’s going to be when you talk about the Top 10. He’ll always be mentioned in the Top 10, so it’s pretty cool.”
BRIEFLY: Jason Kidd said center Maxi Kleber will be ready to play Saturday at noon when the Mavs play Game 1 of their best-of-seven first-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz at American Airlines Center. Kleber missed the final four regular season games with right ankle soreness. . .Dwight Powell’s franchise record of 18 consecutive field goals made came to end on Sunday night when he missed a lob dunk attempt late in the second quarter. Powell made his first four field goals Sunday before that unfortunate miss.