Mavs eager to continue building chemistry when Spurs visit

Both the Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs have something to prove over the final fourth of the season, which begins when the teams return to action after the All-Star break on Thursday in Dallas.

The Mavericks are trying to climb up the Western Conference standings while quickly acclimating to addition Kyrie Irving, who was brought to Dallas to pair with Luka Doncic and make the most of the final 22 games.

Thursday’s contest is the first of a six-game homestand for Dallas and is the seventh consecutive road outing for the Spurs, who have dropped the first six games of their annual Rodeo Road Trip.

The Mavericks begin the stretch run on the heels of three straight losses, most recently a 118-109 setback in Denver on Feb. 15 that dropped them to sixth in the West. Dallas is only 2 1/2 games behind third-place Sacramento, but also only two games ahead of the 12th-place Portland.

Doncic scored 37 points in the loss at Denver while Christian Wood added 17, McKinley Wright IV tallied 11 and A.J. Lawson had 10 for Dallas, which played without Irving (lower back tightness) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (right hamstring tightness).

Doncic and Irving have only played together twice since the trade and used the downtime from the All-Star break to get better acquainted with each other.

“I’ve only been around him for two weeks,” Irving said. “But we’ve had incredible dialogue being at the arena and also being at the practice facility for a little bit, we get to know each other a little bit.

“I wish we could have training camp together where you guys don’t see some of our mistakes, but we’re living it out in front of you guys.”

The Spurs needed the break to regroup after losing a franchise-worst 14 games in a row heading into the week-long respite. Despite the swoon, its second this year of at least 11 losses, San Antonio is still not the worst team in the NBA; that dubious distinction belongs to Houston, which is a half-game behind the Spurs.

“We are a young group, so it is not always going to be perfect,” Spurs forward Jeremy Sochan said. “We know we are in a situation where it is going to be tough on us, because we aren’t as experienced as other teams. We just have to keep growing.”

San Antonio’s last game was a 120-110 loss at Charlotte on Feb. 15. Malaki Branham led the Spurs with 23 points, with Keldon Johnson scoring 21, Doug McDermott hitting for 17 off the bench and Zach Collins racking up 14 as San Antonio finished with six scorers in double figures.

San Antonio scored just eight points over the game’s final six minutes.

“Yeah they’re young, and blah blah blah, but that ‘young’ thing is getting old,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “It’s the same mistakes – giving up middle, not blocking out, not getting back in transition, that sort of thing. Just inexcusable. Youth’s got nothing to do with it.”

Dallas took the only game this season between the teams, winning 126-125 in the Alamo City on Dec. 31 when Doncic scored 51 points.

–Field Level Media