The Mavs had control for most of the game before blowing things wide open in the second half. The starters played well, the bench played well and the end-of-the-roster hopefuls pulled their weight again.
Here are a couple of things we learned:
Dennis Smith Jr is so much fun
OK so we didn’t necessarily learn that after this game, we’ve known this for some time. Still, after Smith’s quiet debut on Monday night, it was fun to see Smith flex a bit and put up a good stat line.
The rookie finished with 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting to go along with two rebounds, three assists, two steals and four turnovers. He showed off a little bit of everything with a couple three-pointers, a nice layup in transition and some quality patience in the pick and roll with Dirk Nowitzki and Harrison Barnes.
It remains impressive how good Smith’s vision is. The four turnovers are expected, but the way Smith operates in the screen and roll with both Dirk and Barnes makes it look like he’s been doing this much longer than he has. There were a couple times Smith got caught up between probing deeper and pulling up, but otherwise he made good reads. He should have had more than three assists, if a couple more shots would have gone down. Smith made one cross-court fling to Seth Curry in the corner that made me arch my eyebrow a bit. That’s a pass rookies struggle with.
RIP Whackadoodle bench lineup
In the first preseason game on Monday, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle had an unconventional rotation, playing all his starters in the first quarter, then going to an all bench lineup for most of the second. It was done so he could maximize the amount of time the starters could play together since they were only playing the first half.
Because of that, Carlisle employed his most mad-scientist lineup yet: three (short) point guards with Dwight Powell and Nerlens Noel. It was very, very fun.
Against the Bulls, Carlisle played the first half more straight up, featuring a rotation closer to what should be happening in the regular season. That meant the whackadoodle lineup was no more — sorta.
The lineup still lived on in spirit, as in the second quarter Carlisle still deployed all three of his bench point guards along with two bigs, except this time next to Noel it was Dirk himself. The lineup was much, much better.
It still had its weird moments, as defensively it’s really hard to dig in with three short guards and a 39-year-old big but there’s no denying how much fun it is to watch. There aren’t going to be a lot of teams with benches that can keep up with all those guards and the lobs and kick out threes should be flowing.
This preseason is fun
It’s been two games in the preseason and two games in the preseason against a Bucks team missing its best player and an already very bad Bulls team not at full-strength. So, don’t take too much from this.
What you can take away is that this preseason is already better than last year’s, in a big way. Besides just the wins, the important Mavs are playing well. That didn’t happen a year ago, when the Mavs looked sluggish, old, slow, out-of-sorts and raw.
To sum up: a year ago the Mavs looked like trash in the preseason and followed that up by looking like trash for the first two months of the regular season. This is better. Much better.
Who knows how well this translates to actual wins, but the Mavericks look like a team that has returned a lot of its roster and knows how to play together while making a giant improvement at starting point guard from opening night a year ago. So far, so good. Let’s keep this fun.