Dallas led after the first quarter thanks to fast starts from Harrison Barnes and Dennis Smith Jr. along with a very slow start from LeBron James. James never really found his shot all night, finishing 5-for-21 but as the game wore on, he continually got involved as a play-maker.
The Mavs outscored the Cavs 30-25 in the third and it seems like the Mavs were going to pull it off. That’s when James turned into a point god and picked apart the Mavs defense. Cleveland didn’t shoot well from the floor but they were 11-of-26 (42.3 percent) from three and the Mavs could never really get out to all the Cavs shooters.
Here’s what we learned/took away:
Harrison Barnes was in beast mode
This might be one of Barnes best game as a Maverick, finishing with 30 points, three rebounds and an eye-brow-raising five assists. Barnes was pretty much the entire Mavs offense on a night where the threes weren’t falling consistently and everything inside the arc was a mixed bag.
Barnes went right at James and scored in a variety of ways, like he typically does. The surprising part were the assists and the five 3-pointers — two areas Barnes needs to improve on if he ever wants to take the next step as a player. If Barnes can find his sea-legs from deep next season, he’ll be a significantly better player when you consider how much work he does in post-ups and isolation.
Watching the Mavs play with two true wings at the same time is neat
With the return of Dorian Finney-Smith and the trade for Doug McDermott, it’s very neat to see Barnes play next to another able-bodied wing that’s similar to his size.
It doesn’t always work well, with Finney-Smith’s shooting inconsistent and McDermott’s defense lacking, but the Mavs feel right when they play those lineups. They feel like a real team, not one trying to use smoke and mirrors to get by. It gives Barnes a break guarding power forwards and it gives the Mavs defense added versatility out on the perimeter.
McDermott is thriving in these groups on offense, it’s a shame his defense isn’t really there. If Finney-Smith can become a league-average three-point shooter, he’ll be a nice cog next to Barnes. Either way, it’s nice to see the Mavericks roll out these types of lineups as opposed to the three point guard ones.
Dennis Smith Jr.’s sloppy game
One of the bright marks on Smith’s season has been how clean his play has been, relative to a rookie starting point guard. He came into tonight averaging 2.8 turnovers per game, which is not too shabby when you consider how much he’s had to learn and how much the Mavs have let him work with the ball.
The seven turnovers tonight were tied for the second-most he’s had in a game this season. But it was the first time since Feb. 11 that Smith had more than five turnovers. It’s kind of surprising how he’s avoided these catastrophic turnover games. It was bound to happen and Smith took his lumps against the defending Eastern Conference champions.