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Dorian Finney-Smith’s career night against the Spurs was much needed

Although he’s known more for his defense, Finney-Smith erupted for 22 points Monday night.

San Antonio Spurs v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

Luka Doncic’s career night will overshadow most of what went on in the Dallas Mavericks’ 117-110 win over the San Antonio Spurs Monday night. His 42-point triple double stole the show. Yet, he couldn’t have done it without the help of his teammates. After the game was over, he was eager to heap praise on one in particular: Dorian Finney-Smith, who also had a career night.

“He played amazing,” Doncic said. “Like I say, he played amazing. He plays amazing defense, amazing offense. And you know, that’s how he is every game.”

Finney-Smith poured in a career-high 22 points last night on 8-of-10 shooting. He also knocked down three of his four shots from behind the three-point arc. His previous high was 19 points. His outburst against the Spurs was a departure from his usual day-to-day contributions. He’s only averaging just 9.1 points on 48.9 percent shooting this season.

Helping Finney-Smith get open looks all night was Doncic. The reigning Rookie of the Year relentlessly attacked the Spurs’ defense, getting into the paint, and drawing multiple defenders. Thanks to his adept passing, he was able to set up teammates throughout the night. He found Finney-Smith early and often. He wasn’t the only one looking for him — each time the ball swung his way, Finney-Smith was ready.

“I made my first two and guys just kept finding me,” Finney-Smith said. “The team was making shots, you know. When you kind of make shots, it’s contagious.”

At one point during the game, Doncic wanted to ride Finney-Smith’s hot hand. During one possession, Doncic brought the ball into the half court and called a play to get him a three-point shot. As he had done all night, Finney-Smith drained it once the ball found him.

“It feels good,” Finney-Smith said of Doncic calling his number. “He’s one of the main guys that always is telling me to shoot. We shoot together a lot, so he knows I can shoot it. So, he always just tells me, ‘Keep shooting.’ It feels good knowing that he trusts me.”

It wasn’t just his scoring output that earned him praise. His defensive effort against DeMar DeRozan was admirable. While the box score shows that DeRozan had a superb night, scoring an efficient 36 points, Finney-Smith held his ground and did what he could. DeRozan was just feeling it too.

“Overall, Finney-Smith had a really huge game,” head coach Rick Carlisle said. “Just the effort that goes into guarding a guy like DeRozan and plus being able to put up 22 points. And then the shot he hit at the shot clock buzzer late in the fourth was obviously a decisive shot.”

At one point in the fourth quarter, as the Mavericks were attempting to secure the ball with the shot clock running down and the Spurs within striking distance of taking the lead. Kristaps Porzingis dove to the ground for the loose ball and was able to direct it to Finney-Smith, who rose and shot. The ball found nylon as the shot clock expired.

Finney-Smith didn’t have the easiest path to the NBA, being undrafted, but the Mavericks saw something in him and gave him a chance. Their reward is a game like last night. He might not light up the scoreboard on a regular basis, but he steps onto the floor every night knowing that his teammates believe in him.

“I really ain’t been shooting it that good these last couple games,” Finney-Smith said. “I’ve just been making some, I would say, some clutch shots when they’re important. Everybody in here is confident in my shooting and I am too. I’m just going to keep letting them fly.”