The Dallas Mavericks fell to the Denver Nuggets, 91-89. Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets by stuffing the box score with 11 points, 16 rebounds, 11 assists, and a pair of blocks. Harrison Barnes was the high point man for Dallas, chipping in 22 in a rather inefficient evening.
The Nuggets opened the game on fire, putting an already tired Mavericks team on their heels early. After weathering a quick 17 point flurry from Denver, Dallas settled and slowly worked themselves back into the game. The Maverick second unit, led by Yogi Ferrell, worked the Mavericks back to within four by the end of the quarter. Dallas trailed 26-30 after one period.
The second quarter was a sloppy affair with neither team looking particularly sharp. The dribble penetration from the Maverick guards seemed to fluster the Denver defense. Dallas slowly chipped at the Denver defense eventually tying the game before the Nuggets woke up on the offensive end. Denver retook the lead as the Maverick offensive sputtered and led at the half 50-42.
Dallas came alive in the third quarter, led by rookie Dennis Smith and aided by timely buckets from Dirk Nowitzki, Kyle Collingsworth, and Harrison Barnes. The Mavericks feasted in the paint in the third as Denver’s offense ground to a halt. Dirk gave Dallas a brief two point lead around the eight minute mark before the Nuggets would find their way again. Denver’s lead ballooned to 65-58 with around 3:30 in the period. The Mavericks then proceeded to go on a ridiculous 16-1 run to end the quarter, led primarily by Harrison Barnes and the bench unit. Dallas took a 74-66 lead into the final frame.
Somehow, some way, the Mavericks gave up an eight point lead and lost the game. After the lead extended to 9 points following a Dirk Nowitzki three, the Mavericks managed to score just 12 points in the final 11 minutes of game action. While the Nuggets did their best to execute, the Mavericks gave them repeated chances to chip away at the lead, mainly through a few poorly timed turnovers, a few missed free throws, and lots of missed shots. Denver tied the game, took a three point lead, gave the lead right back with under two minutes to play. The Nuggets actually had a chance to ice the game on a free throw following a Gary Harris three and an off ball Maxi Kleber foul. Jokic missed the three through and Wesley Matthews tied the game on a broken play. Jokie then atoned for his missed free throw with a 19 footer which would be the final points of the game. Dallas had two chances to tie or take the lead in the final twelve seconds, but could not connect. The Mavericks fell 91-89.
Dennis Smith is going to be a problem for other teams and soon.
I’ve been fairly tepid about Dennis Smith, Jr. this year for a variety of reasons. Rookie guards never seem to have good seasons and I’ve often wondered about Smith’s skill set. His athleticism and patience made me think he has a high floor if nothing else.
But as the season’s worn on, it’s become so very clear that Dennis Smith Jr. is going to be quite special and soon. Ignore his shooting against Denver (an ugly 5 of 18) and look at what sort of shots he was taking. Smith got to the rim at will and took open threes. The missed lay ups and dunks will become makes eventually, because getting to the rim in the first place is the hard part. His finishing will come, as it did for many uber athletic point guards before him.
That we are 50 games into the season and Smith is still looking so comfortable is really exciting. While I think we’d all like to see him play more clutch time minutes, those are the sort of things that will come with time. The future is pretty exciting.
The Dallas Maverick talent gap
On the one hand, it’s really crazy that the Mavericks have played 32 clutch games (A clutch game is defined as being within five points with five minutes left in the game). On the other hand, that they are 7-25 in those games really illustrates just how wide the talent gap actually is with Dallas.
The team might have us believe that because Dallas is always in close games that they are actually closer to being good than the record indicates. That’s true insofar as Carlisle could squeeze blood from a stone, if he was given the chance. The truth is the team is devoid of top level talent in a very real way.
There are 10 undrafted players on the roster right now: Wesley Matthews, J.J. Barea, Yogi Ferrell, Salah Mejri, Maxi Kleber, Kyle Collingsworth, Seth Curry, Dorian Finney-Smith, Jalen Jones, and Jonathan Motley. I’m well aware that both Matthews and Barea have proven themselves quality NBA players and most of the rest of those mentioned are gritty guys with at least one very useful skill. But there’s not a lot of pedigree there either, and the talent gap keeps showing itself at really frustrating times, like at the end of close games when the other teams more talented players play better and win against the gritty Mavericks.
Harrison Barnes, blah star
There’s often a weird debate in our comments section about how Rick Carlisle is not getting the most out of Harrison Barnes. First, that’s a stupid argument. He is. Carlisle is getting more out of Barnes than any other coach has during his time as a basketball player.
The problem with Barnes is that he is good at all the wrong things. Being an isolation scorer who doesn’t get to the line much, is mediocre at three point shooting, and cannot see open players for passes is less valuable now than it ever has been. Don’t get me wrong, without Barnes the Mavericks would have won 5 games, but it’s evident a lot in these slow paced games that he doesn’t fit what Dallas wants to do.