Don’t look now, but Kristaps Porzingis has his swagger back.
Experts weren’t sure what to expect from the 7-3 unicorn from Latvia this season after he missed the entire 2018-19 season because of an ACL tear. Porzingis averaged 22.7 points per game during the 2017-18 season with the Knicks before suffering the injury. The Mavs took a risk by trading for him, but after nights like Wednesday’s 127-123 overtime victory over the Pelicans in which Porzingis had 34 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks, it’s clear that the gamble has paid off.
Porzingis is averaging 19.2 points per game this season, but Wednesday’s outing was his fifth with 30-plus points and 10-plus rebounds since Jan. 31. He had three such outings in his career before that.
Even with those numbers, he’s second fiddle for Dallas, playing Robin to Luka Doncic’s Batman. Doncic also dazzled in the win over New Orleans with 30 points, 17 rebounds, 10 assists — his franchise-record 22nd triple-double. Doncic, playing in his 122nd game for the Mavericks, surpassed Hall of Famer Jason Kidd’s mark of 21, which was set in 500 games.
Porzingis’ skill set perfectly complements Doncic’s game. His long frame makes him a constant lob threat in pick-and-roll situations and his 3-point stroke limits defenders’ ability to help in pick-and-pop spots.
The gravity he draws from the defense frees up Luka to do Luka things, such as nail the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:09 left in overtime. And when the defense keys on Doncic, he makes the right play and lobs it up to Porzingis for the easy dunk.
With opponents unable to help off of Porzingis, Doncic gets the space do things like take two-time All-Defensive selection Jrue Holliday to the dance floor with a series of sick crossovers (hats off to Zion Williamson for the freakish leaping ability to force Doncic into a kick-out).
Doncic and Porzingis are the epitome of a modern basketball partnership: a smooth facilitator paired with a crafty big man, both with the ability to knock down shots from outside. And they might be basketball’s most exciting duo when they’re both clicking like they were on Wednesday.
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