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2 things following the Charlotte Hornets escaping the Dallas Mavericks, 102-98

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The Mavericks fight hard but fall short at home

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks fell to the Charlotte Hornets Saturday evening at home, 102-98. Kemba Walker scored 24 points for the Hornets, while Dwight Howard grabbed an astonishing 23 rebounds. Dennis Smith Jr. scored 21 for Dallas, leading a balanced attack where six Mavericks scored in double figures.

The Mavericks posted a strong opening period, with Smith taking the fight to Charlotte. Harrison Barnes came out firing, hitting three 3-pointers in the first quarter. The early Maverick fire clearly put the Hornets on their heels, as they oddly (yet predictably) attempted to go to Dwight Howard in the post. Dallas built a mid-quarter lead on Charlotte which they used the remainder of the quarter chipping into. The Mavericks led 27-22 after one.

The Hornets came alive in the second and things were clearly wonky from the get go as Dirk Nowitzki air balled a three to open the game. The game stopped, equipment officials inspected the ball (it seemed there was beer on it), and then the game resumed. The Mavericks briefly kept the lead, but a long-forming Hornets run eventually resulted in the Hornets taking a double digit lead. Things looked like they might spiral out of control for the Mavericks at that point, but Dallas rallied back to single digits. Smith actually cut the lead to six points following free throws just before the half. The Mavericks trailed 54-48 heading into the third.

Dallas came out firing in the third, making Charlotte awfully uncomfortable. Barnes hit his fourth three-pointer of the game to close the lead to three, but that was as close as the Mavericks would get in the third. The score waxed and waned, but Dallas was unable to close the gap. The Hornets took a 79-70 lead into the final quarter.

This really had the makings of a game where the Mavericks hung around and got blown out late. The players had something to say about that. A Yogi Ferrell bucket cut the Hornet lead to one around the six minute mark, but the Mavericks couldn’t take the lead, which became the recurring story for Dallas down the stretch. The Mavericks repeatedly cut the lead to one, then the Hornets extended the lead to four, which the Mavericks would then cut to two points. The Hornets took a seven point lead with just over two minutes remaining and Ferrell answered with a three to pull Dallas back from the brink. With Charlotte leading 98-94, the Hornets missed the next shot and a Nerlens Noel putback closed the lead to two with just over a minute remaining. Following a made Jeremy Lamb jumper, Smith dribbled up the floor and lost the ball near the top of the key. The Hornets recovered the loose ball, sunk the ensuing free throws, and the Mavericks would come no closer than four. Dallas fell to the Hornets, 102-98.

Dwight Howard is a large man

It’s important to know that Dwight Howard is 6’9. But he looks like a massive human on the court. He stood next to Dwight Powell and Noel and they looked like children. I’ve been fairly into drafting a wing this draft but with so many interesting big men, I don’t blame people for being into one of the various options for the draft. When Howard grabs TWENTY THREE rebounds, it’s hard not to.

Dennis Smith Jr. is fine

Fine? He’s awesome. 21 points, six assists, and five rebounds is utterly fantastic. He made a number of fantastic lay-ins paired with a couple of passes which had me rewinding the DVR.

This sort of play, getting this deep in the lane, is so awesome. Moving forward, watching how Smith keeps his dribble alive in the lane is key. His efficiency numbers are going to be scrutinized moving forward, but it’s plays like this we should hope for more of.