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Dorian Finney-Smith lit up the Clippers from deep in Game 1

Finney-Smith picked up where he left off in the regular season

NBA: Playoffs-Dallas Mavericks at Los Angeles Clippers Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Dorian Finney-Smith came up huge for the Dallas Mavericks in their 113-103 Game 1 win over the Los Angeles Clippers. Time and again, he rose to the occasion and knocked down big shots, something that didn’t come naturally a few seasons ago.

Now, Finney-Smith is one of Dallas’ most reliable outside shooters. If the Mavericks have their eyes set on stealing this first-round series, they’ll need him to keep coming up big from deep like he did Saturday.

Playing almost 38 minutes, Finney-Smith poured in 18 points, grabbed five rebounds, dished two assists, and claimed one steal. His 18 points were the third highest on the team, behind Luka Doncic and Tim Hardaway Jr. Most importantly, his shots were efficient.

He knocked down seven of his nine attempts for 77.8 percent shooting overall. From behind the three-point arc, he was even more sharp, going four for five. That’s 80 percent. Not only was that the highest percentage on the team, it was tops in the game.

“He has great belief in himself,” Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said. “His three-pointer tonight was absolutely key to the win.”

That hasn’t always been the case. Just a few years ago, it seemed like Finney-Smith couldn’t buy a bucket from deep. He shot just 29.9 percent on three-pointers in his injury-shortened second season. That season, though, also represented a change.

Finney-Smith began retooling the mechanics of his shooting motion that year. It’s something that he’s worked on relentlessly with Mavericks shooting coach Peter Patton.

“It was tough, man, especially when I didn’t get that immediate result I wanted, like my first two years when I changed it,” Finney-Smith said. “It’s just been getting better since. That’s always tough when you make a change. If you don’t get the results, most guys tend to want to go back to the old shot. But I just stuck with it, and I make shots now.”

This season, he’s hitting 39.4 percent on three-pointers, a career high. During the final 10 games of the regular season, that average inched up to 40 percent to go along with 51.9 percent shooting overall. Because of his hot shooting, Finney-Smith has established himself as a legitimate offensive threat both from deep as well as attacking the rim.

He picked up where he left off in the regular season in Game 1. Against the Clippers, he scored at every level—at the rim, from midrange, and from behind the arc. Crucially, Finney-Smith hit two big threes from the left side in the fourth quarter, each one coming at critical moments as Los Angeles was making a run.

Doncic found him on the second shot with 2:50 to play in the quarter. Finney-Smith’s make gave the Mavericks a 103-100 lead, a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

“When Luka gets going, me personally, I just try to stay ready because I know they’re about to start trapping him, and that’s when you get to find people slinging the ball across court,” Finney-Smith said.

We know that Doncic will pace the Mavericks throughout the series. It’s the role players like Finney-Smith that will need to step up and be ready every night. Finney-Smith has proved what he’s capable of on the floor, and in the locker room he’s established himself as a leader on the team.

“The thing about Dorian, I think, that flies under the radar, when you have stars like Doncic and Porzingis, is the leadership role that he has on our team,” Carlisle said. “He’s a guy who, when he speaks up, the locker room is quiet and people listen. He’s a man of few words, but when he speaks, our guys pay close attention.”

Here’s the postgame podcast, Mavs Moneyball After Dark. If you can’t see the embed below “More from Mavs Moneyball”, click here. And if you haven’t yet, subscribe by searching “Mavs Moneyball podcast” into your favorite podcast app.