The Dallas Mavericks held on to a close victory against the Milwaukee Bucks Sunday night in Las Vegas Summer League, 81-78. Johnathan Motley led the Mavericks with 20 points and seven rebounds, despite coming off the bench. Travis Trice II was the high point man for the summer Milwaukee Bucks with 16.
Game two for the Mavericks was a surprisingly raucous affair, with a high scoring back and forth first half, followed by a rock fight in the second half. The Bucks opened the first quarter red hot from outside, hitting six threes throughout. The early barrage put the Mavericks on their heels within minutes, but after weathering the Bucks shot making, the Mavericks chipped into Milwaukee’s margin.
Dorian Finney-Smith had the best game of his two-Summer League career and it started in the first with a pair of threes and a long two. Dennis Smith Jr. got in on the action with a break away dunk and a stellar pick and roll with Ray Spalding resulting in a Spalding lay in. Johnathan Motley got on his run late in the quarter with a pair of free throws and a short jumper which briefly gave Dallas the lead. The sixth Bucks three pointer just before the break saw Milwaukee take a 28-26 lead into the second.
The Bucks and Mavericks took turns making mistakes and giving up second chance points in the second period. Dennis Smith Jr. missed a whole lot of threes, while Motley and DFS kept Dallas in the game with hustle plays. An increasingly sloppy game from both teams meant that neither squad was able to take a commanding lead. A second Dennis Smith fast break dunk and a later drive resulting in free throws let Dallas hang around and the Mavericks found themselves trailing 46-50 at the half.
It’s important to understand that at some point in my second half notes I simply wrote: “second half, tire fire”. After the Bucks hit a whopping eight threes in the first half, they only hit two in the second. The Mavericks pushed back from a four point deficit and at one point took a seven point lead. After Dallas pulled Dennis Smith Jr. from the action the game got fairly sloppy for the Mavericks and they let the Bucks creepy back into the game. But Johnathan Motley was there to save Dallas with offensive rebounds and putbacks. The Mavericks got out of Cox Arena with a 81-78 victory. They play again tomorrow against the Warriors.
Now, for some stuff.
The young Dallas guards are not hitting their shots
Dennis Smith is 2 of 13 from three through two games (9 of 24 over all, but he’s had some break away dunks as well, which boost that percentage). Jalen Brunson is 4 of 23 from the field through two games, including an ugly 1 for 9 from deep.
With Dennis, he’s taking a lot of pull up shots from behind the arc. I’d guess the idea is that if he’s able to hit those shots at a reasonable clip, it opens up other things for him. However, with the space he’ll be getting in Dallas I don’t see why he needs to take those kind of looks. It’s a learning experience for everyone, I suppose. Building skills is important and Smith’s already fairly far along on the starting NBA point guard curve which does not treat most players kindly.
Brunson’s struggles are a bit different because we as a fan base only have an idea of what he might be capable of. Lots of missed shots stink but many of his looks aren’t going down. That he has five assists to eight turnovers through two games is something to keep an eye on because ball control is key in the Maverick offense. It’s two games. So it’s nothing to worry about. But that doesn’t mean it’s fun to watch.
Johnathan Motley and Dorian Finney-Smith are actual basketball players
While Motley had more of the statement game in terms of a statistical line (20 points, 7 rebounds), Dorian Finney-Smith had the kind of game we’ve been itching for. 14 points on 6 of 9 shooting, including 2 of 4 from beyond the arc, along with seven rebounds, three assists, a steal, and a block.
I’m not sure what sort of role Motley could have with the Dallas Mavericks one day, just because the Mavericks seem to value rolling bigs who play with verticality and Motley’s more of a bull. But Finney-Smith is a guy the Mavericks have bet on, so he has to have these games where he hits 2 of 5 from beyond the arc now and then. He will probably never be a league average three point shooter, but north of 30% shouldn’t be as hard as his career stats indicate.
Luka Doncic isn’t going to play
Whatever is happening with Doncic, be it his buyout with Real Madrid, his contract with the Mavericks, his physical, whatever it is, he’s not going to play. The Mavericks left the door open a smidge but it seems that two games into Vegas Summer league, that hope is gone.