The Dallas Mavericks (14-28) ended a 3-game losing streak against the Orlando Magic (12-29) by the final score of 114-99. After trailing by five points at halftime, the Mavs turned it on in the second half, especially in the third quarter, where they scored 39 points. They followed that up with 32 more points in the fourth, and Orlando just simply couldn’t keep up.
Here’s 3 things we learned from the game tonight.
Dennis Smith Jr. has defensive potential when fully engaged
By now, everybody knows what Smith Jr. can do with the ball on offense. His stat line tonight against the Magic was 20 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists. However, in the first half, he showed us a glimpse of what he’s capable of on the defensive end of the floor as well. Early in the first quarter, after the Magic jumped out to a 9-4 lead, the Mavs battled back to tie it at 9-9. Then, this defensive play by Smith Jr. led to the Mavs taking their first lead of the night.
Dennis Smith Jr. poked the ball away from Elfrid Payton, resulting in a Magic turnover. That's one way to make an early impact defensively. pic.twitter.com/r4p1wz1Ppj— Bobby Karalla (@bobbykaralla) January 10, 2018
A few minutes later, Smith Jr. bodied up Jonathon Simmons in the post, forcing him to retreat to the three-point line and eventually throw up a wild driving layup attempt. Smith Jr. finished off that possession by out-muscling everyone else for the rebound.
Nice work here by Smith in the post, poking it away twice and then recovering in time to grab a rebound against the much bigger Biyombo. pic.twitter.com/442x6z4po6— Bobby Karalla (@bobbykaralla) January 10, 2018
These are just a few samples, but you get the point. At 6’3”, Smith Jr. is not undersized for his position. That, paired with his supreme athleticism, gives him a legitimate chance to be a plus defender if he’s willing to put in the effort night in and night out.
Grass is green, the sky is blue, and Dirk Nowitzki still gets buckets
At the ripe age of 39, Dirk isn’t the same player he used to be, but on any given night, he can still drop 20-plus points if he feels like it. Tonight, Dirk put up 20 points and had 3 rebounds to go with that. Although he’s flirted with it a few times, this was only Dirk’s second 20-point game of the season. Let’s all just take a moment to soak this in, being that it doesn’t happen as often as it used to.
Each Dirk bucket gets him one step closer to Wilt Chamberlain for 5th on the NBA’s All-Time scoring list.
Mavs are at their best when everyone is contributing
Tonight, Dallas had five players score in double figures. Dirk (20), Smith Jr. (20), Wesley Matthews (16), Harrison Barnes (15) and Yogi Ferrell (15) all showed up for the Mavs tonight. Dallas hasn’t won many games this season, but when they’re firing on all cylinders, they're extremely hard to beat. It’s unrealistic to expect this kind of effort every night from this squad, but tonight was another reminder of what the Mavs are capable of when they play well together.