This game was brutal in a lot of ways, but there’s one big positive to take from tonight: Luka’s aggression.
Yes, the Mavericks got blown out tonight, and yes, that sucks. But there’s no shame in losing to the Miami Heat right now — especially when you’re shorthanded due to injuries. After the loss, Coach Kidd mentioned that he thinks the Heat are the best team in the league right now.
It’s never fun to lose, but this is one I didn’t go into expecting to win. Instead of dwelling on the loss, let’s focus on a huge positive that came from tonight’s game: Luka Doncic’s aggression looking for his own shot early in the game.
Before this season started, there seemed to be an emphasis on Luka needing to trust his teammates (whatever that means). Whether intentional or not, that seems like it went too far in the first few games of the 2021-22 campaign. We saw Luka get off to slow starts, constantly passing up high-quality shots (sometimes at the rim), and instead, passing it out to players who weren’t even open.
It seems like Luka was trying too hard to get his teammates involved, rather than just doing what he does best — play the game of basketball freely and aggressively.
Against the Heat, that changed. Luka was back to looking like Luka. He came out of the gates looking for his own shot right away. And guess what! It worked. The Mavs got out to their best start of the season, and it was against arguably the best team in the league.
On the second Mavs possession of the game, Luka got to the free-throw line. A few minutes later, he knocked down a 30-footer.
After the game, I asked Luka about his aggression level early on and if that’s something he wants to continue doing going forward, or if he just takes what the defense gives him. Luka said, “I’ve just got to be aggressive. Every game, I know it’s tough. There are so many games, but I’ve got to be more and more aggressive. I think that’s something I’m doing more and more, and that’s what I’ve got to do.”
Luka’s right! He is doing it more and more, and it is what he needs to do in order for this Mavs team to find success. They don’t have the talent around him to let him get off to slow starts. It’s unfortunate, but it’s the reality. If the Mavs want to win games, they need Luka to look for his shot early — even when it’s not going in. When he’s actively looking for his shot, that’s when his teammates have an easier time getting open. That’s when he can look for them.
Here’s our lastest episode of Mavs Moneyball After Dark. If you’re unable to see the embed below, click here to be taken to the podcast directly. Or go to your favorite podcast app and search Mavs Moneyball Podcast.