It’s the start of a new era of Mavs/Spurs, with a lot of different faces but the same familiar rivalry, as the two Texas clubs played a fun — if occasionally sloppy — 53 minutes of basketball Monday night.
Ultimately, Dallas came up short, but they were playing on the road on the second night of a back-to-back, and there were certainly positive takeaways, even if losing this game when a near-miss free throw might have won it is frustrating.
Rookie sensation Luka Doncic got off to a slow start in this one(and seemed to be a little chippy about not getting enough looks early on), but turned it on in the second half, burying 4 threes en route to a new career high 31 point night. Doncic looked superb working the pick and roll with DeAndre Jordan, and when the three-point shot is falling as well, special things usually happen. Luka still makes the occasional silly turnover(he had 6 tonight against 4 assists), but at this point it looks pretty clear that the question won’t be “if” this will be Luka’s team someday, but “when”.
DENNIS OFFERS MAJOR HIGHS AND MAJOR LOWS
We have to try to remember that Dennis Smith, Jr. is still just 20, and that point guards his age often take several years to really look comfortable. Dennis connected on 9-18 shots for 22 points, getting a lot of looks from midrange, and his lone three was a spectacular one: an off-balance stepback late in regulation that he drilled. Overall, it was a good step forward for him, but (barely) missing a free-throw that would have but Dallas ahead with 2 seconds left, then having some less-than-ideal possessions in overtime definitely take some of the sheen off it.
Though they ran out of gas in OT, the starters were pretty good Monday, as all five guys were in the positive. Unfortunately, the bench laid a bit of an egg, not only struggling to stop the Spurs attack, but shockingly the five bench players combined for just one assist(and it didn’t come from team leading assist man J.J. Barea). This has been a theme so far and while getting Dirk and Devin Harris back will help give Carlisle more options, it might turn out that the team’s bright spot last season has become their Achilles’ heel.
ONE FINAL NOTE
I know these losses can hurt and that being so close to victory might make it sting for some. However, to get quality games from Luka and Dennis, and have the team be competitive on the road against a solid West squad, I think one must adopt a broader, longterm outlook here. The W’s aren’t coming yet, but it’s fun to see young players succeed and in my mind this is unarguably more aesthetically pleasing basketball than the brand I saw being played last season. So, hang in there