The Dallas Mavericks pushed their season best win streak to four games against the Oklahoma City Thunder, winning 116-113 on New Years Eve. Dennis Smith, Jr. once again led the Mavericks in victory, scoring 19 points, dishing out six assists, and grabbing four rebounds. Harrison Barnes was the high point man for Dallas with 24. Russell Westbrook led the Thunder in defeat with his 10th triple double of the year, notching 38 points, 15 rebounds, and 11 assists.
The Mavericks came out slightly rusty against the Thunder, getting down 2-8 very quickly as Oklahoma City pushed the pace on Dallas misses and got a pair of transition lay-ins for Steven Adams to go along with a put back and a Carmelo Anthony face-up jumper. The Mavericks soon settled in for an offensive quarter that picked up right where they left off against the New Orleans Hornets. Led by Harrison Barnes, Dallas connected on 14 of 21 shots in the quarter and took a surprising 35-32 lead into the second frame.
Paul George dominated the second quarter as the Dallas Mavericks mostly went cold from the field. After falling behind 42-36, Paul George connected on a three, then a long jumper to make the Mavericks sweat. Dallas kept the lead for a good portion of the period until an Anthony three gave the Thunder a 48-46 lead. Following a timeout, Yogi Ferrell retook the lead with a three of his own. The Thunder would control the game for the remainder of the quarter. Dennis Smith re-entered the game and had one of his worst stretches as a Maverick, with multiple forced shots, a missed dunk, and a bad top of the key turnover which lead to Paul George free throws. Dallas trailed at the half 63-57.
Dallas played a whirlwind of a quarter in the third. The Mavericks whittled down the Thunder lead through Maxi Kleber and Harrison Barnes hustle. Harrison Barnes connected on a nice post move, and Devin Harris followed up a missed Thunder shot with a corner three to tie the game at 75-all. The Thunder immediately took back the lead, but a Salah Merji hook shot tied the game again.
Things stayed crazy as Devin Harris again found the bottom of the net on a three point attempt, and Merji connected on a pick and roll with Barea to give Dallas an 82-77 lead. The Mavericks were unable to connect on their next several possessions, and allowed the Thunder to spring to life through Russell Westbrook. The Mavericks would score again, but the Thunder retook an 85-84 lead in the final seconds before the end of the third.
The final quarter started the way all epic comebacks should: with Dirk Nowitzki looking like an unstoppable god, pouring in seven quick points to put the Thunder on notice. Dallas took a 91-89 lead over OKC before things nearly came apart. A pair of horrid air balls from both Dirk and Harrison Barnes gave the Thunder a spark that nearly started a fire.
The lead went back and forth through the next several minutes of play until a Dennis Smith, Jr. left-wing three swished through the net. Westbrook answered with an jumpshot of his own to tie the game at 108. Smith cared not for the Westbrookian narratives and banked home another three to give the Mavericks a 111-108 lead they would not relinquish. Following a free throw parade, the Mavericks left Oklahoma City with a huge win 116-113.
Dennis Smith, Jr. is the future for the Mavericks
For the faithful who didn’t watch this game, it will be hard to describe why this game mattered so much for both the Mavericks and their rookie point guard. 19 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds is pretty good, but it’s not the stuff legends are made out of.
But for those of us who stayed in on New Year’s Eve, who watched the poise and the recovery from a truly terrible second quarter stretch, this is the game that has made me want a Dennis Smith, Jr. jersey. He was that awesome.
Before we dance in the heroics, let’s revisit the second quarter where his missed dunk, two horrid forced jumpers, and a truly awful turnover gave the Thunder the lead they took into the half. He was bad. Like, Carlisle puts him in his doghouse for a game or two bad.
And yet there he was in the final minutes. One supposes after three straight wins where he played in the clutch, he’d earned the trust to be out there. The Thunder were coming, you just felt it. We’ve seen it far too often since the 2011 playoffs when the Mavericks exposed Westbrook for being a terrible mid-range shooter. He made it a mission to improve, and he did to the point that he’s a guy who should be in MVP consideration every year. He’s a monster.
Then that left-wing three from Dennis splashed down. The narrative shifted a little, until Westbrook answered with a long jumper of his own. But Dennis immediately connected on a top of the key three, hitting off the glass. Ignore the fact that the glass was an accident and that this shot going in was luck. I don’t care. Sometimes you need a little luck. That Dennis hit this shot and all but one of his free throws is HUGE. This is the guy I want to ride for moving forward. The Mavericks are in some confident hands moving into 2018 and beyond. Hell yes.