NEW YORK – On a Wednesday night when the New York Knicks’ fans made Dirk Nowitzki feel like he was shooting jumpers in his backyard, Dennis Smith Jr. showed why he is so valuable to the Dallas Mavericks.
Smith scored 13 points, grabbed a season-high 10 rebounds and distributed a career-high 15 assists to help steer the Mavs to a convincing 114-90 triumph over the Knicks before a Madison Square Garden crowd of 18,842. Combined with the triple-double rookie Luka Doncic recorded in the Mavs’ last game against Toronto this past Sunday, according to Elias Sports Bureau, this is the first time in Mavs history that two different players recorded triple-doubles in consecutive games.
So, what does it all mean in the grand scheme of things?
“It means that (Smith and Doncic) can play together, if you ask me,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I thought Smith’s game was really exceptional.
“Smith obviously had a huge impact game. He’s the big reason we had (a season-high tying) 31 assists. We haven’t had an assist number like that in a while.”
While Smith was directing traffic, the Mavs were really having one of those all-around games for the ages. The Mavs had five players score 13 or more points, they won the rebounding battle by 15, and they also shot 53.6 percent from the field and made 15 of their 38 attempts from 3-point land.
“There were many, many positives,” Carlisle said. “I thought top to bottom we played very, very well.
“The first half was a little bit disjointed at times, but the second half was terrific.”
It was the second career triple-double for Smith, whose first triple-double came at New Orleans on Dec. 29, 2017. Smith said a team effort was the catalyst behind Wednesday’s triple-double.
When Smith left this blowout with 2:42 remaining in the third quarter, he had already collected 13 points, seven rebounds and 14 assists, and the Mavs (23-27) were nursing an 82-66 lead. When he finally returned to the game with 4:35 remaining, he said he didn’t know he was close to registering a triple-double until center DeAndre Jordan brought it to his attention.
“I think DJ asked (coach Carlisle) to sub me back in,” Smith said. “It was actually a couple of people on the bench that asked him to sub me back in.”
And that’s not all Smith’s teammates did to help make this a memorable night for him.
“They set me up for a couple of boards as well,” he said. “They boxed their man out.
“When I got (the triple-double with 2:50 to go in the game) I knew I was coming out, which was fine with me. Like I said, it was a team effort. It was a real team effort to help me get it.”
It also was a real team effort by the Mavs in helping Nowitzki get his appointed shots in his sweet spots. With the crowd buzzing and roaring every time he touched the ball, Nowitzki finished what perhaps may be his final game at Madison Square Garden with a season-high 14 points on 5-of-7 shots.
“It’s just something I’ll always remember for the rest of my life – the reception,” Nowitzki said. “It’s been emotional at times, but it’s something I’ll never forget.
“It’s obviously the magnitude of the game here, the history of the building. We’ve seen some of the greatest performances not only in our sport in this arena, the fans are knowledgeable and know the game. It’s a fun atmosphere. . .I’ve always enjoyed playing here, and if it was my last time it’s definitely one of my most favorite places to play.”
Wesley Matthews’ fifth 3-pointer of the night that beat the first-half buzzer staked the Mavs to a 55-47 lead at intermission. Harrison Barnes then tallied 11 of his game-high 19 points in the third quarter when the Mavs forged ahead, 90-70, following consecutive 3-pointers by Devin Harris and Dwight Powell.
“When Barnes was having trouble getting into the flow of the game, Dennis made sure he got into it,” Carlisle said. “Barnes’ aggressiveness in the third quarter was what gave us a big enough cushion to put the thing away.”
The Mavs eventually led by as much as 29 points – 112-83 – after Nowitzki got the crowd humming with a 3-pointer with 2:42 to go. That came after chants of “We Want Dirk” engulfed the arena, and Carlisle decided to put the 21-year veteran back in the game with 4:35 remaining.
“A lot of these fans on the road have been coming every year and has been so consistent,” Carlisle said. “In a certain way they kind of view (Nowitzki) as one of them a little bit, I think. It’s a respect thing.
“When the game was not in question, we had been talking during the fourth (quarter). (Nowitzki) had been talking to Casey Smith, our (head athletic) trainer, that he was ready to go back in if you wanted to put him back in. You knew the people wanted to see him out there, and then he goes out and he hits a couple of shots. A very special thing.”
This also was a very special night for Smith. One that he’ll put in the memory bank.
NOTES: Rookie Luka Doncic had a sluggish start, but finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Doncic was 2-of-8 from the field with four point in the first quarter. . .Wesley Matthews was 5-of-7 from 3-point territory and ended up with 17 points. ..Rapper J. Cole, a good friend of Dennis Smith Jr. sat courtside Wednesday night. Smith and Cole are both from Fayetteville, N.C. This was the first Mavs game Cole has attended this season after the Mavs went 1-1 in the games he attended last season. “He told me to have a really good game tonight, and he wanted to see a good show,” Smith said of Cole. “We got the win and I had a solid game, so it was really good to see him out there tonight.”. .Harrison Barnes brought and wore some purple sneakers during the game. “It’s just some new Kobe’s I was bringing out tonight,” Barnes said. “I was bringing out tonight a little bit of flavor for the city.”. .The 24-point win was the Mavs’ largest since they ran over the Charlotte Hornets, 122-84, on Jan. 2, also on the road. This was just the Mavs’ fifth road win of the season against 20 losses.