The Dallas Mavericks hosted the state rival San Antonio Spurs Wednesday night at the American Airlines Center, and what looked like what might become a laugher all too predictably turned into a slow, methodical drag into defeat.
Dallas jumped out to a 20-4 lead to start and led 35-20 after the first quarter, but the Spurs played like the well-coached, poised(and SUPER BORING, I mean good lord I need coffee to watch that club) team that they are and chipped away at the lead until taking over for good in the final 7 minutes. Despite the Spurs’ two leading scorers — LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan — having off nights, San Antonio stayed within striking distance thanks to a strong bench peformance, especially from their three point shooting trio of Patty Mills, Marco Belinelli, and Davis Bertans.
LUKA TIES CURRY IN LOSS
Luka Doncic scored 25 points for the fifth straight game, tying Steph Curry, who accomplished the feat in 2009. Doncic once again handled point guard duties with Dennis Smith Jr. “sick” tonight, and handed out 8 assists along with 8 rebounds in addition to his 25 points. Doncic has a reputation already for barking at the refs a good deal, but tonight seemed to have a bit of a case, as there were several missed foul calls, including a key no-call late on a three point attempt. I’m not one to go the route of blaming the refs, but this was not a well officiated game, in my opinion.
ROUGH NIGHT FOR BARNES
Harrison Barnes finished 4-18 from the field for 11 points. He did manage three assists, the most he’s totalled in some time, but was the only starter in the negative by plus/minus. Without DSJ or the injured J.J. Barea, Dallas really needed a second playmaker behind Luka. Barnes did do a decent job keeping DeMar DeRozan in check, though the Spurs were able to get DeRozan a couple of nice midrange looks late to help ice the game.
MAVS’ BENCH COMPETES BUT LACKS PLAYMAKING
There were a few standouts from the bench unit for Dallas tonight, including Dorian Finney-Smith(12 points on 8 shots), and Dwight Powell(9 points on 5 shots). Even Dirk had a pair of threes off Luka assists(!). Still, the impact of the absence of J.J. Barea is hard to overstate. Rookie Jalen Brunson is not yet the dynamic playmaker Barea is off the dribble, and there were long stretches where Dallas struggled to move the ball enough to find open looks. The Spurs bench pummeled the Mavs in this one.
DALLAS NEEDS TO MAKE A DECISION WITH DENNIS SMITH, JR.
The biggest story for Dallas right now is the one happening off the court, as the team has become embroiled in trade rumors surrounding second year point guard Dennis Smith, Jr. Smith has struggled adjusting to a new role playing more off-ball next to Luka, and it’s understandable why the coaching staff and front office might be frustrated there, as I’m sure Dennis is frustrated with himself(and that new role). Still, this is a mess, and the longer it continues, the more the team’s play will suffer, especially as it has timed so poorly with the injury to aforementioned veteran Barea. Dallas needs playmakers in the worst way, and they are slowly falling into the kind of hole fans might remember from the past two years, which is a shame, given how many highlights the team has enjoyed in Luka’s first half-season. One way or another, it’s time to make a decision: either trade Dennis and move on, or bring him back into the fold and try to build him up rather than tear him down. The team is **not** in any kind of position that they can afford to do some other third option.