The Dallas Mavericks defeated the Trail Blazers on Friday night, but they had to travel to Ohio to face the Cleveland Cavaliers for their fourth game in six days on Dec. 17. Luka Doncic scored 33 against Portland, but the team decided to rest him and Spencer Dinwiddie because of the packed scheduled coupled with difficult travel.
With both point guards and the Mavericks' two best ball-handlers on the sidelines, Kemba Walker earned the start in Cleveland, and he made the most of his opportunity. The 32-year-old brought back his All-Star form, even if it was for only one night, as Dallas nearly upset the Cavaliers in what had schedule loss written all over it.
The Mavs signed Kemba back in November, but this was just his third chance to play. The four-time All-Star showed flashes in his first two contests, but nothing like what fans saw on Saturday night. Here is a closer look at Walker’s night and why he deserves more playing time moving forward.
Kemba Walker proves he deserves more minutes as Dallas Mavericks fall to Cavaliers without Luka Doncic
When the Mavs ruled out Luka Doncic, Spencer Dinwiddie, Dwight Powell, Josh Green, and Maxi Kleber on Saturday afternoon, nobody believed they would defeat the Cavaliers on the second night of a back-to-back in Cleveland. Dallas was just too shorthanded, but Kemba Walker and the Mavericks had other ideas.
Dallas led for the majority of the game, including entering clutch time, but the Cavaliers made a late run before the Mavs stormed back to force overtime. Ultimately, Cleveland played stout defense to grab the win in the extra session. Still, Walker was outstanding. He was getting to his spots and making it look easy on Dec. 17.
Kemba finished with 32 points, five rebounds, seven assists, and one block in 42 minutes of action. He was 12 of 25 from the field, including making four 3-pointers in the 100-99 loss, and the Mavericks outscored the Cavaliers by seven with Walker on the floor. He even forced overtime by driving past Jarrett Allen for a lay-up in the final seconds of regulation.
The Mavericks were dominated by the Cavaliers on Wednesday night in Dallas with Luka Doncic. Yes, Cleveland was on the second night of a back-to-back, but Kemba keeping the Mavs in this game and giving them a chance to win was impressive.
The Mavs have only been playing two ball-handlers and playmakers in their rotation. Their offense can grind to a halt when one of them needs a rest, and opposing teams trap the only playmaker on the floor.
The need for another option jumps off the screen, and Kemba proved he deserves that role moving forward. He is not the same player that he was in Charlotte, but the veteran can run the offense, control the pace, and he has a deadly mid-range game. Walker knows how to impact a game. He did it on Saturday night, and the veteran point guard can help the Mavs moving forward if head coach Jason Kidd just gives him that opportunity.
Dallas Mavericks fans should not expect too much. Kemba Walker’s knee issues are well-documented, but he can make an impact as a third ball-handler. Will he get that chance moving forward? Stay tuned to find out.