From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:
The holiday season is upon us, and let’s hear three cheers for Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle, the Lisbon High School graduate who has his NBA team in playoff position in the Western Conference despite the recent loss of key big man Luka Doncic.
Dallas (19-10) is in second place in the Southwest Division, only a game behind Houston (20-9) entering play Monday night.
The absence of Doncic, an MVP candidate who is the NBA’s third-leading scorer at 29.3 points per game before he sprained his right ankle in a game almost two weeks ago, has had its benefits, however.
“This has been a good thing for us, just from the standpoint of having other guys being put in a situation to have to step up,” Carlisle told Field Level Media wire service. “And it’s forced us as coaches to make certain adjustments that we have to make. You never want to be without a guy like Doncic. He’s a great all-around player. We need him back as long as possible, but as long as he’s out, we have a plan, and the guys are executing well.”
Most noticeably, Kristaps Porzingis, Jalen Brunson and Tim Hardaway Jr. have each picked up their play.
The Mavericks (11-3 away from Dallas) ended Milwaukee’s league season-best 18-game winning streak Dec. 16 and then upended host Philadelphia last Friday before Sunday’s 110-107 loss to defending champion Toronto.
Not only did that loss snap Dallas’ seven-game road winning streak, the Mavericks blew a 30-point lead late in the third quarter before succumbing in the fourth.
The Mavericks, whose last road loss was to the Knicks on Nov. 14, also beat the division-leading Rockets and Lakers each by 14 points on their homecourts during the streak.
Doncic, who now has missed four straight games, was last season’s NBA Rookie of the Year. His presence and domination on the court at times have provided a smooth transition for Carlisle after 21-year star forward Dirk Nowitzki retired last spring.
Carlisle told FLM that without Doncic “we’ve adjusted our style significantly.” He said there has been limited play-calling, more pace and ball movement. The Mavericks return to action Thursday, when they host the Spurs.
n From Seattle Times columnist Dwight Perry, here’s a nugget from his quotebook:
Former NFL Vikings head coach Bud Grant, 92, in his new limited-edition biography, “I’ve Been Lucky,” on the secrets to a good coach: “A patient wife, a loyal dog and a great quarterback. Not necessarily in that order.”
Times sports copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org