OK, before you start giggling uncontrollably, we’re here today to tell you that Dorian Finney-Smith did a more than commendable job on James Harden in Monday night’s 120-104 Mavericks’ loss in Houston.
Harden scored 31 points.
Yes, that’s a bunch. But consider these factors:
It’s more than four points below his season average.
It’s more than 10 points below Harden’s average in the past 30 games, when he’s scored 30 points or more exactly 30 times.
It’s the second-lowest point total for Harden in that 30-for-30 streak. He had 30 in a game earlier this month. And Harden was sitting on 20 points until the final few minutes of the game, when he was reinserted, ostensibly because the Mavericks had trimmed the Houston lead to nine points on a couple of occasions.
So Harden scoring 31 points isn’t exactly a major event in the big picture of his incredible season – and yes, he remains the heavy, heavy favorite for MVP.
Bear in mind that Finney-Smith, who did have some help on Harden in the form of trapping defenses that coach Rick Carlisle employed, also finished Sunday’s game checking Damian Lillard during much of the fourth quarter, when he was limited to zero field goals after scoring 28 points through three quarters.
All of this points to the fact that Finney-Smith is doing a solid job of filling the void that was left by the trade that dealt, among others, Wesley Matthews to New York. He was the designated defender for the Mavericks until he was traded. Now it’s Finney-Smith, who is in his third season with the Mavericks and is averaging 7.9 points and 4.7 rebounds.
His 3-point shooting, which was revamped with new mechanics more than a year ago, is starting to pay dividends. He’s making 34.7 percent from beyond the arc after averaging less than 30 percent his first two seasons.
It adds up to a player that will have a significant role moving forward. And he’s already been averaging more than 25 minutes per game this season after missing most of 2017-18 to recuperate a nagging knee injury.
“Extremely impressed,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s a great worker. And he’s been through some adversity. He had the knee injury last year, something that took awhile to work through. But he really worked hard, for months, and since he’s been back, he’s really worked to maintain it. His shot is well-documented, how much work he’s put in on that. And he’s one of our best perimeter defenders.”
It’s that last attribute that the Mavericks are going to lean on heavily Wednesday against Miami and after the All-Star break.