The Dallas Mavericks faced off against the Philadelphia 76ers in China Friday morning and fell 120-114 in a really entertaining pre-season match up. J.J. Reddick poured in 28 points on a perfect 10 for 10 from the field to lead the Sixers. Dennis Smith Jr. was the high point man for Dallas, chipping in 20 points.
Things got off to a fast start, with the Sixers looking asleep in terms of their defense and sloppy ball control. The Mavericks took an early lead and didn’t let up, pouring in 35 points in the first quarter to the Sixers’ 26. Philadelphia stormed back in the second period, led by the hot shooting of J.J Reddick and the surprising play from Landry Shamet. The Sixers led at the half 64-62.
The second half got out of hand for the Mavericks at the hot shooting from Reddick couldn’t be contained. Though Dallas eventually made the game respectable late in the fourth, the Sixers had a double digit lead for most of the half. Philadelphia got out with a 120-114 win.
Though you might be wanting more from the in game action, it’s hard to care about the results of a pre-season game. Instead, let’s focus on the process with some observations below
Movement without the ball
Maybe it’s just the months without good basketball but I don’t remember last year’s Mavericks having the sort of off ball movement seen against the Sixers. It’s been readily apparent watching Dennis Smith Jr. that he’s made a conscience effort to improve his activity without the ball.
One play late in the second stands out. Wesley Matthews had dribbled into a post up outside of the right block. Smith saw and opening in the lane and flashed from the opposite wing towards the basket. Matthews found Smith who scored at the rim (really a goal tended lay up, but the effect was the same).
Over all, there’s far less dribbling without purpose in the Maverick offense after two games.
Pushing the pace
A key reason why Dennis Smith Jr. poured in 15 first quarter points had to do with how quickly the Mavericks advanced the ball after Sixer misses or turnovers. Considering how slowly Dallas has played the last several years, it’s exciting to watch both Luka Doncic and Smith push the ball.
For Smith it might be particularly effective if he’s on the recieving end of Maverick pushes. Pair his quickness against a defense that’s still in transition and he’s going to win most of those battles. Smith also looked confident catching and shooting on those scramble situations.
Both Smith and Doncic showed a shot in the first half which could open up so much for the Dallas offense, the floater. Smith, to start his mid first quarter scoring run, nailed a 15 foot tear drop after a hard dribble to get towards the basket. His defender dropped so far off him, he had no choice and the shot slid through the net.
Doncic hit a similar shot in the second quarter, but off a pick and roll with Dwight Powell. The vertical threat of Powell paired with Doncic’s passing acumen forced the defender to choose who to guard. The angle of the shot even confused Powell who went up for the alley oop and pulled back just before the ball fell through the rim.
Dennis Smith started the game 6-7 from the floor including three threes. He finished the game just 8 of 16. Some of that’s game flow; Smith exited the game on a hot streak and sat a good period of time. But his shot selection and decision making suffered after a strong first quarter. Smith penetrates far too often into traffic without a plan. He’ll draw 2-3 defenders and force a shot up. He’s still got a great deal of work to do in terms of drawing fouls.
JJ stop dribbing, please
One thing that happened with alarming frequency last year (and really, his whole time in Dallas) with JJ Barea in the game was how much he dominated the ball. After mentioning earlier how good the ball movement was, with Barea in the game, things became entirely dependent on his probing the defense and passing to someone or shooting.
It’s particularly frustrating with the young talent seeing the floor alongside Barea. It happened far too often last season that Dennis and Barea would see the floor together and for Dennis to not see the ball. It happened today in the third and fourth quarters with Doncic and Barea.
Look, Barea’s made a career off of pick and roll action with Dirk Nowitzki sharing the floor with him. With Dirk out right now, it exacerbates how symbiotic that relationship is. Pass the ball some, buddy, is what I’m saying.
Hit your free throws fellas!
The Mavericks boasted a 40-20 free throw attempt advantage over the Sixers yet missed a whooping 15 of them. That one stat was more than enough to decide the game.
Luka Doncic must cut down on the turnovers
We’ve heard and will continue to hear about how epic the vision and passing are of Luka Doncic. It’s all true. But through two games he has 5 assists and 8 turnovers. Turnovers of any sort are frowned upon generally, but the unforced ones are what nag Doncic. He’ll learn to be more careful of course, but it’s something to keep track of as the season progresses.
Wesley Matthews’ shoes
A meeting of old friends
If you saw this on the telecast, it just warmed your heart. Later on Wang Zhizhi apparently gave Dirk a guitar for some reason.