The absence of Kristaps Porzingis from the last couple of games because of knee soreness no doubt sends a tinge of fear through Dallas Mavericks ticket holders. The fact that Coach Rick Carlisle indicated doubt about the 7-3 power forward’s availability in the coming days was no help, either.
After all, we know Porzingis’s history here – he missed the whole season last year with a torn ACL.
The Mavs’ staff may be handling the big guy with kid gloves because of that history, and because Porzingis did put in heavy time in back-to-back road games last weekend.
Nevertheless, having Porzingis sidelined – kinda like Luka Doncic’s brief absence last month – gives a chance to measure this team’s depth and gut during these spells of injury which almost always occur.
Porzingis isn’t the only part of this latest spell of injury. Not only is Doncic limping along with various aches, but guard Tim Hardaway Jr. was out in the last game and is day-to-day with a hamstring strain. And reserve guard Ryan Broekhoff, who was helpful during Doncic’s down time, is out indefinitely with a leg injury.
Hardaway’s absence is a big deal, since he helps run the offense and keep guards in check on defense.
Naturally the cascading effect of all of these injuries turned up in that New Year’s Eve loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Out front, the Mavericks had trouble keeping up with Ok City’s contingent of solid scoring guards.
Under the basket, Dallas lost the rebounding battle, despite Maxi Kleber’s commendable 14-rebound performance. And the Thunder bench outscored Dallas’s busy reserves, 40-28.
Porzingis also missed Thursday’s home win against Brooklyn, possibly because the Nets were in even worse shape.
But, uncertainty might be the word to characterize the Mavs, because of the health issues.
In other words, we need to take a collective gulp and wonder about this team’s future, since injuries appear to be part of the picture.
We sort of know the team photo without Doncic, since we had a short preview last month; a solid team became a struggling team.
With Porzingis riding the bench, Kleber and Dwight Powell step in to try to fill the void. Kleber averages 8.3 points and 5.5 rebounds a game in the 24 minutes he plays. That’s about half the production of Porzingis, who puts in 31 minutes a game. Powell, though he did not start against the Thunder, actually contributes a little more than Kleber, 26 minutes, 8.5 points and 5.5 rebounds.
With the guards out of the picture, we would have an even bigger problem, especially on the defensive end.
On the Good Side
So the Mavs have run into a streak of bad fortune. The good fortune is in the fact that they are a surprising 22-12 this season, a game behind the Houston Rockets in the Southwest Division and cruising along at fifth in the Western Conference, well into the playoff picture.
More than that, the Mavericks are in their longest home stand of the season, which started against the Nets. During the six-game stretch, they play some teams they should beat. But they also have challenges against Denver (Jan. 8) and the Lakers (Jan. 10), the Western Conference leaders.
It will be worth paying for tickets to see how the Dallas Mavericks emerge from this.