Fresh off a 30-point thrashing at the hands of the Golden State Warriors, the (previously) winless Dallas Mavericks had their sights set on a home matchup with the (previously) undefeated Memphis Grizzlies. Obviously, the constant use of the word “previously” means that the Mavs won a game by the final score of 103-94 — and it was AWESOME.
Here’s 3 things we learned tonight.
Noel was inserted into the starting lineup
And man, oh man, did that get the Mavs off to a great start, as they stormed out of the gates to a 32-18 lead after the first quarter. Noel’s presence as a lob threat really opened things up for Dallas’ offense, and it was a lot of fun to watch.
After only playing Noel 12 minutes in a blowout loss to the Warriors a few days ago, Rick Carlisle took a lot of heat when he said the reason for Noel’s minutes was “matchups.” The Mavs still have a whole lot they need to clean up, and they still sorely miss Seth Curry’s added scoring, but maybe tonight was finally the end of the Nerlens Noel drama. He is meant to be a starting center, and tonight, Rick Carlisle made a great coaching decision. Noel only played 20 minutes, but he scored 8 points, 5 rebounds and was a +11 for the game.
Dennis Smith Jr. looked like a rookie early
BUT — that was very short-lived, as the talented rookie came on strong in the second half. In the first half, Smith Jr. only had 5 points, 1 rebound and 1 assist, while missing some free throws and seeming to be a little hesitant. That’s to be expected from a rookie at times, but it was good to see Smith Jr. keep his confidence up. He finished with 19 points (8-of-12 shooting, 3-of-6 from deep), 5 assists in 28 minutes and had a number of plays that displayed his supreme athleticism.
He’s only played in 3 games so far, but he’s already proved, at least in my mind, that he’s going to have an incredible rookie year. With each passing game, Smith Jr. should continue to get more comfortable running the offense. Luckily for us, we get to witness every step of this kid’s development and — hopefully — his rise to stardom.
WINNING SURE DOES FEEL NICE
Forget #TeamTank! This was FUN. I don’t know how many wins the Mavs will collect this season, but if they can stay healthy, I’d be willing to bet they’ll win more than what most people expected. As mentioned before, this team is still missing Seth Curry, who is most likely the team’s best shooter. If they can continue to develop Smith Jr. and build chemistry, we will see more fun nights like tonight. And guess what? The Mavs play the Grizzlies again tomorrow night at their place. Let’s do this again, shall we? Let’s get crunk.