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4 things we learned in the Mavericks’ home opener win against Minnesota, 140-136

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An exciting back-and-forth game resulted in a very fun first win of the season.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Dallas Mavericks Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

After a disparaging first quarter giving up 46 points the arena felt a collective déjà vu. The mood would turn on a pair of plays from Luka Doncic in the second quarter.

Around halfway through the second quarter Luka Doncic stole the ball from Taj Gibson after a rebound and hit a three right in his face as the AAC erupted in a chorus of cheers. On the Mavs next possession Dennis Smith Jr finds Doncic wide open from an in bounds play and the Slovenian splashes home the corner 3. The game is tied for the first time since the tip.

With 3:21 left in the first half J.J. Barea hit DeAndre Jordan on an alley-oop layup to take their first lead of the game — one of many impressive DeAndre Jordan plays as the big man has apparently quickly become a fan favorite.

The second half was a back-and-forth battle with neither side able to gain much of an advantage for long. Then the fourth quarter rolled around.

Wesley Matthews hit a pair of threes around the midway point in the fourth quarter. The second of those triples gave Dallas a lead they would not relinquish until the final minute and sent the AAC into a frenzy. The Timeberwolves refused to give us a boring finish, never letting the Mavericks lead grow to more than five points.

Luka Doncic posted up Derek Rose and hit a fade-away jumper with two minutes left, then Towns would hit more free throws to keep his team in it. Dennis Smith Jr. would make a shot then Towns came back again with a three pointer.

Bucket after bucket the teams traded until Taj Gibson hit a 12-foot jumper to tie the game at 134 with 27.8 seconds left.

Dennis Smith Jr. takes the ball up the court and gets an isolation against Jeff Teague at the top of the arc. Wesley Matthews runs up from Dennis’ right side and gets Derek Rose switched onto Smith Jr.

He takes one dribble to his right, crosses over to his left, steps back and takes a jumper. Derek Rose is too far away and rushes to close out. The shot drops in as Rose knocks Smith Jr. to the ground; and-one.

Dallas takes a three point lead they would not surrender as Dennis Smith Jr. scored the Mavericks final six points en route to a 140-136 win.

Here’s what we learned in this thrilling home opener:

  1. Dorian Finney-Smith feels good about his shooting stroke

In shoot around this morning Dorian noted how he’s no longer thinking about the adjustments he’s been making to his shot; he’s just shooting it.

It showed tonight: Finney-Smith went 2-5 on three pointers and looked confident shooting all of them. On a fast break, Finney-Smith sprinted to the left corner and called for the ball when the defender collapsed to the driving Dennis Smith.

DFS caught the pass and hoisted the shot like he knew it was going in, and it did.

2. The Mavericks still have a long way to go defensively

Minnesota shot 51.9% on three pointers and made 34-40 free throws. Both of those number need to vastly improve. Derrick Rose torched the Mavs for 26 points for goodness sake.

“We had a really disasterous first quarter giving up 46 which I don’t imagine any Mavericks team has ever done that,” Carlisle said in his opening remarks about the team’s first win.

When Carlisle’s first words to the press after a big win are about the defensive lapses instead of late-game shots, it speaks to the seriousness of the breakdowns.

3. Tales of DeAndre Jordan’s defensive demise were greatly exaggerated

DeAndre Jordan had 5 blocks in tonight’s game and altered a good deal more. In addition: It’s nice to be reminded what it’s like to have a defensive presence in the paint.

“He’s an inspirational leader on our team,” Rick Carlisle said of DeAndre Jordan tonight in his post game comments. “He’s constantly talking and constantly encouraging guys.”

Though the box score shows Karl Anthony-Towns putting up 31, it doesn’t show how many of those points were scored when Finney-Smith got switched onto him in the post.

Jordan did well to limit him to perimeter shots, even though he excels at hitting them, while also playing a big role as a help defender in the paint.

In the two games this season DeAndre Jordan is averaging 3 blocks per game and 1.5 steals per game.

4. Dennis Smith Jr. is gonna be alright, friends

The sophomore guard looked downright lost in the first game of the season — possibly his worst game as a Maverick. But tonight, he looked confident, dishing out 6 assists and scoring 19 points — one of which was a cool, calm and collected shot that hit its mark and drew a foul to ultimately win the game.

Down the stretch nothing seemed to phase him, or Luka Doncic, or Wesley Matthews. This game needed to be a big one from Smith Jr. to get going in this home opener.

“Everybody believes in each other and has each other’s back,” Smith Jr. said about taking that and-1 shot. “It makes it a lot easier to go out and take that kind of shot when your teammates believe in you.”