It’s the last night of preseason basketball and the regular season opener is close but seemingly still so far away. The Mavericks wrapped up exhibition play taking on Kemba Walker and the Charlotte Hornets. The Mavericks starters opened the game strong pushing a ten point lead midway through the first, and the Mavs reserves kept pace, even withstanding a Malik Monk half court heave at the buzzer. Dorian-Finney Smith, DeAndre Jordan and Dennis Smith Jr. all chipped in six points a piece as the Mavericks took a 35-29 lead after the first.
The Hornets jumped out to a quick 10-0 run to start the second quarter forcing Rick Carlisle to sub in the starters with about nine minutes to play. However the Hornets shot 61 percent from deep in the half while the Mavs shot 38 percent from the field which allowed Charlotte to take a 58-53 lead into the break. Walker led all scorers with 13, and Jordan nearly collected a first half double-double with 12 points and nine boards.
The Hornets looked to pick up where they left off in the second and pushed the lead to ten, but the Mavericks responded and blitzed Charlotte to a 24-10 run of their own to take a 77-73 lead. We got a glimpse of the Mavericks potentially high-octane offense with Luka Doncic and Smith Jr. pushing the pace and working the two-man game with Jordan. The Mavericks outscored the Hornets by six to take an 86-82 lead.
The fourth quarter was an offensive explosion as the Hornets poured in 41 points and the Mavericks scored a measly 32. Ultimately, the Charlotte reserves bested the Dallas bench and pulled out the 123-118 victory. Doncic and Jordan led all scorers with 18 points while the Hornets were led by Devonte Graham’s 15. The Mavericks finish the preseason with a 2-2 record but are now ready for the real thing on Wednesday against the Phoenix Suns.
DeAndre Jordan is something else
We knew Jordan was good, and we knew he’d look good in Dallas, but he’s far and away so much better than the centers the Mavericks have been rolling out there in the past few years. Jordan nearly had a double-double at the half which will probably be normal this season. We were able to see Jordan’s mastery in the pick and roll and he even went 6-6 from the free throw line! Occasionally, DSJ expressed his frustration during the game and the broadcast showed Jordan continuously in Smith’s ear presumably giving leadership and encouragement. Jordan notched 18 points and 12 rebounds in three quarters. Dude is good.
Dennis Smith Jr. showing the ability to finish in traffic
Smith’s outside shot is his biggest weakness, but his ability to finish in traffic and get to the line also needed improvement. It hasn’t been consistent this preseason, but Smith looked good here knifing into the paint and keeping the defender on his hip to get a clean look:
Dennis with the fancy finish! pic.twitter.com/rAdyjXwMZW— Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) October 13, 2018
Notice Smith get the step on Zeller and then use his body to shield the longer arms. Dennis doesn’t have the longest arms himself, so he’ll need to use his body like this to get clean looks at the rim.
The old guys looked...old
Look, it’s preseason, and I don’t want to put much stock into meaningless games when there’s 82 left to be played. But Devin Harris and Wesley Matthews did not look good. Matthews continued to do that thing where he pounds the air out of the basketball which results in a low percentage shot. He contributed 9/5/5, but shot 33 percent from the field. Harris was worse, and frankly, hasn’t looked that good much of this preseason. Again, it’s entirely too early to panic, but it is something to monitor.
I’m not really sure what to write that hasn’t already been written, but Luka deserved a shoutout in the fourth and final preseason recap that the entire Internet is surely reading. Doncic started slow, not really standing out in the first quarter, but caught fire later in the game hitting a mixture of set shots and step back threes. Doncic really put his imprint on the game in the third quarter pushing the pace, finding Jordan out of a few pick and rolls and looking every bit like the player the Mavs hoped they were trading up for. He finished with 18 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals while shooting 40 percent from three.
There have been times were Doncic has looked slow, committed careless turnovers or has been blown by on defense, but the guy can really play. And he is a lot of fun to watch. At 19 his court vision is elite, and he seems to be one move ahead mentally of the defense. Doncic has checked all the boxes and officially starts his rookie of the year campaign on Wednesday.