The Dallas Maverick were riding high coming to Memphis, winners of four straight — including a 50 point win against Utah, and a win against the defending champion Warriors — but fell back down to Earth on Monday night, losing to the Grizzlies 98-88. The game was closer than the final score might suggest, as Dallas was in the game the entire way, even leading for a portion of it, but the Mavs went ice cold in the final five or six minutes, and that was all Memphis needed to pull away.
UGLY SHOOTING NIGHT FOR DALLAS
6-20. 6-15. 3-14. Those were the shooting lines of the Mavs’ three offensive stars, Luka Doncic, Dennis Smith Jr. and Harrison Barnes. Dennis Smith led the way with a team-high 19 points, thanks to 3 threes and 4-5 shooting from the line(a nice bounce back after his horrid free throw shooting in the last game), but he was still -8 on the night and had some bad possessions late when Dallas needed to right the ship. Meanwhile, Dennis’ counterpart, Mike Conley, torched the Mavs for 28 points, including 7 threes. Dallas is going to have a tough time beating anyone when their starters struggle, especially a quality team like Memphis, who improves to 11-5.
SHORTHANDED BENCH ALSO STRUGGLES
With J.J. Barea and Dwight Powell out and Dorian Finney-Smith starting in place of also-injured Wes Matthews, the Mavs’ bench was paper thin Monday. Coach Rick Carlisle played an 8 man rotation, with rookie Jalen Brunson seeing his second highest minute total of the season, but the replacements never found a groove, going 0-4 from three and 4-17 from the field collectively. Maxi Kleber had a pair of show-stopping blocks but missed all four of his shots.
DEANDRE JORDAN NEARLY HAS 20-20 VISION
DeAndre Jordan grabbed 20 boards and added 17 points, including 5-6 from the free throw line. It’s been mentioned before but it honestly can’t be said enough how shocking Jordan’s improvement at the line is. I truly can’t think of anything comparable in modern basketball history, for a career 40-ish free throw shooter to suddenly jump 30 points like this, on high volume. We can — and will — point out other areas of concern for Jordan, but he deserves a lot of credit for turning his greatest weakness into a strength.
SHOULD DOE-DOE KEEP STARTING?
Wes Matthews is a respected veteran who has done everything in his power to compete when on the court with the Mavs, despite his limitations, but given both his success playing with the second unit and the dramatic improvement of third year wing Dorian Finney-Smith, it’s a fair question to ask: what should happen when Wes returns? The answer is most likely that DFS will go back to the bench, but count me as in favor of keeping Finney-Smith in the starting lineup. Dorian converted 3 of 6 threes Monday, raising his already stellar three point percentage from the 44% it stood at entering play. He is an extremely active defender who generates deflections with his long arms and hustles for offensive boards when he’s not spotting up from deep. It’s still early in the season, but Finney-Smith is starting to turn himself into a really important piece longterm for the Mavs, and someone that the team should absolutely invest some of its ample cap space in retaining this summer.
This was a rough one for the Mavs to lose at the end, but they will get a chance to get back in the win column Wednesday against a well-coached but beatable Brooklyn Nets team, in Dallas. We’ll see if the injury list will be a little shorter come that game.