This might be just what this Dallas Mavericks team needed going forward. No, they didn’t take down the mighty Golden State Warriors, but what they did do is prove to themselves that they can compete on that kind of level when fully engaged. Despite the 133-103 loss, there’s still a lot to look forward to this season, especially if Dennis Smith Jr. can stay healthy.
In the first half, after the Golden State took an 18-point lead, Dallas didn’t back down, climbing to within one point, before ultimately being down 65-62 at the half. Unlike that ugly game against the Houston Rockets the other night, this game was fun to watch until the Warriors eventually overwhelmed the Mavs and pulled away in the fourth quarter.
Here’s 3 things we learned from tonight’s game.
Dennis has to knock down his free throws
This was the first game Smith Jr. had played in since the season opener against the Hawks, when he scored 16 points, 10 assists and 3 rebounds in his NBA debut. Against the Warriors, he put up 10 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 assist in 28 minutes. Oh, and he only had 1 turnover too. You love to see that from a rookie taking on a team of the Warriors’ caliber. He even showed his ability to turn defense into offense against Steph Curry on this steal and drive to the hoop.
The killer for Dennis in this game though was his free throws, as he went 4-of-10 from the stripe. He also couldn’t convert on a couple of layups tonight either. As physically dominant as Smith Jr. is projected to be at the point guard position throughout his career, he’s going to have to do better about knocking those down to take his game (and his point totals) to the next level. However, we must all remember that this is only Smith Jr.’s second NBA game. He will be fine going forward, and we should continue to enjoy watching him grow up in front of us.
And man, oh man, did I want Smith Jr. to destroy Draymond Green on this drive to the rim.
It’s nice to know that your 19-year-old rookie point guard fears no one.
Wesley Matthews plays better when Dennis plays
After two games of awful shooting, Wes scored 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting, his highest point total and shooting percentage since the season opener. What does this mean? To me, it means if Smith Jr. is able to stay healthy, Matthews is going to end up having a pretty good season.
Wes needs to share the floor with a dynamic playmaker like Smith Jr. to maximize his effectiveness. It was nice to see Matthews show some more life tonight, and hopefully we’ll see some more of that going forward. Some of the burden will be lifted off of Matthews when Seth Curry returns from his leg injury.
Nerlens Noel is still not getting enough minutes
Noel scored 8 points, 7 rebounds and 2 steals in only 11 minutes played tonight. At what point will Rick Carlisle decide that this guy needs to see the floor some more? Maybe there’s a fear that playing Noel heavy minutes will lead to him having some kind of injury. Maybe the Mavs are secretly tanking (doubtful). Maybe there’s still some pettiness going on between the Mavs and Noel from how his contract negotiations went this past offseason. Whatever the case may be, the fact is that Noel is going to have to be a bigger part of the rotation going forward if the Mavs are going to be competitive this season. We’ll see if Carlisle makes any adjustments going forward.
Shoutout to Post Malone for attending tonight’s game and sitting court-side with Mark Cuban. That was pretty cool.