DALLAS — The Mavericks managed to find a formula for success with their All-Star guard duo. All they need is for Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving to each score at least 40 points.
That’s what happened in Thursday’s 133-126 win over the Philadelphia 76ers, when Doncic led Dallas with 42 points and 12 assists and Irving added 40 points and six assists. The Mavs got only their second win out of the pair’s six games together.
It was the first time in franchise history that a pair of Mavs scored at least 40 points each in a game, the sort of spectacular offensive show that Dallas hoped for after pulling off the February blockbuster deal with the Brooklyn Nets to team Irving with Doncic.
“Like I said last time I was sitting up here, I just had to join the party and just make sure my teammates were going to follow along,” Irving said, referring to his comments after Tuesday’s loss to the Indiana Pacers, when he acknowledged that he felt pressure to perform for a new team that is fighting for playoff positioning. “Luka was ready for the party, I was ready for the party tonight, and it was one of those games tonight where we had some special performances. I’m just grateful that the work translated.”
Doncic extended the invitation to Irving, making it a priority to get his new teammate going early and often. Eight of Doncic’s 12 assists were to Irving, including the first six. It tied the second-most assists that Doncic has ever had to an individual teammate in a game.
That was quite a contrast to their first five games together, when Doncic assisted Irving a total of three times, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
“I’ve got to keep it up, man,” said Irving, who was 15-of-22 from the floor and 6-of-8 from 3-point range. “I’ve just got to keep it up and stay consistent in terms of just being prepared for when he’s going to pass and get used to his flow in the game.”
Doncic, the NBA’s scoring leader, also came out aggressive, looking for his own shot as well. He had 17 points in the first quarter and 25 at halftime.
“I just enjoyed watching those two working off of each other,” Mavs coach Jason Kidd said. “As much as we play the game on paper, it’s still played on the court. They’ve got to work through the kinks, but I think at the end of the day, we’ll be happy with what we have.”
Irving and Doncic combined for the Mavs’ first 10 points of the third quarter, pushing Dallas’ lead to double digits. That began a flurry of 37 points for the Mavs in a little more than eight minutes, as Dallas’ lead ballooned to 25 points.
The Mavs still had to sweat in the fourth quarter, however. The 76ers opened the quarter with a 15-0 run to pull within four points despite Joel Embiid and James Harden resting at the time, prompting Doncic to check back into the game a few minutes earlier than planned.
“Not again,” Irving said, still stinging from the Mavs allowing the Los Angeles Lakers to come back from a 27-point deficit in Sunday’s loss, the biggest blown lead of the NBA season. “I just came to the bench and just knew that I had to be very open in my dialogue, saying, ‘This can’t happen again.’ We just have to hold each other accountable.”
Fittingly, Irving made what was essentially the dagger with 3:10 remaining, swishing a pull-up 3 off a Doncic feed to push the lead back to 16. It matched a franchise record for 3s made in a game, as the Mavs were 25-of-48 from long range.
“Playing with Kai is so easy,” said Doncic, who was 13-of-22 from the floor and 7-of-13 from 3-point range during his sixth 40-point, 10-assist performance of the season. “He helps me a lot. The offense I don’t think is a problem. I think offensively, we’re good. It’s just the defensive end. We’ve got to get stops.”