Game 79: Mavs at Magic

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ORLANDO – In a fierce battle of attrition Wednesday night at the Amway Center, the short-handed Dallas Mavericks came up short, losing to the Orlando Magic, 105-100.

The Mavs only dressed 10 players against the Magic and lost two of those – guard J. J. Barea and center Salah Mejri – to game-ending injuries during the game. Barea didn’t play in the second half after straining his left oblique in the first half.

Barea also said he will fly back to Dallas on Thursday and, with just three games remaining in the regular season, added that he won’t play again until next season.

“There’s nothing wrong,” Barea said. “I’m just making sure it won’t get worse.

“I don’t want to finish the season with it messed up. I had a good season.”

Mejri, meanwhile, entered the game for the first time with 1:26 remaining in the third quarter. But after getting run over by one of the Magic players, Mejri hobbled off the court with 40.4 seconds left in the third quarter and did not return due to soreness in his right knee.

“I think when he hit the floor he banged something,” Carlisle said. “I don’t think it’s anything serious, but it was tough.

“He had sat the whole time. It was probably an unfair thing to put him in at that point and time, but if you’re on an NBA bench with a uniform on you’ve got to be ready to go.”

Also, forward Dirk Nowitzki didn’t make the trip to Orlando because of a left ankle impingement, and it is feared that he may be lost for the rest of this season. And Harrison Barnes didn’t play to rest, while Dwight Powell (left knee bursitis) and Dennis Smith Jr. (left knee soreness) sat out to protect their injuries.

In the meantime, in terms of the NBA Draft Lottery, the loss actually worked in the Mavs’ favor. The Mavs have a 24-55 record, which is slightly better than Orlando’s 24-54 record.

The Mavs had a decent chance at taking the lead or tying the game and sending it into overtime. But Dorian Finney-Smith missed a 3-pointer which would have given the Mavs a two-point lead with 2:06 to go, and Jalen Jones (16 points, seven rebounds) missed a 3-pointer that would have tied the game at 99-all with 1:27 left.

Orlando sealed the deal by converting four free throws down the stretch.

“Today I went out there with confidence and if I was open I’d shoot it,” said Finney-Smith after scoring 14 points on 5-of-15 shooting. “We kept it close, but we just couldn’t make shots at the end.

“I still got a good look at the end, but I still missed it.”

Rookies Johnathan Motley (14 points, eight rebounds) and Aaron Harrison (13 points) were tireless workers for the Mavs. Harrison played 42 minutes and Motley logged 41 minutes.

“I just wanted to play as hard as I can,” Harrison said. “I think coach trusts me a little bit.

“Of course I’m tired, but I don’t feel tired in the game because I’m just living the dream.”

Motley, who threw down a pair of dunks in a matter of minutes, also enjoyed his time on the court.

“It definitely was hard playing 12 minutes consecutively, but I enjoyed it,” Motley said. “I just love being out there. It’s so much fun and there’s nothing like it.”

Orlando led by as much as 14 points in the first half, including a 56-51 lead at intermission and a 77-74 lead after the third quarter. With Mavs guard Kyle Collinsworth nearly posting a triple-double during his 35 minutes on the floor, Dallas was able to nearly overcome that 14-point deficit and stay neck-n-neck with the Magic.

“I just try to play how I play, get in the lane, get my floaters up, be aggressive, find shooters, pick up full court and create some sort of leverage for us,” said Collinsworth, who finished with 13 points, nine rebounds and six assists. “When I come in, no matter if it’s four minutes or however many minutes I played tonight, I play how I play.

“With extended minutes you should have a little better stat line.”

Carlisle, meanwhile, made no excuses for having to play short-handed.

“It’s supposed to be tough — it’s the NBA,” he said. “It’s supposed to be tough and competitive.

“They were in a similar mode, and I thought our guys played very hard and a lot of guys did a lot of good things.”

Notes: After playing 25 minutes Tuesday night in Dallas against the Portland Trail Blazers, forward Dirk Nowitzki didn’t make the trip to Orlando that started the Mavs’ three-game road trip. The Mavs listed Nowitzki’s injury as a left ankle impingement. Coach Rick Carlisle said: “He’s obviously not on the trip. There will be more information tomorrow. That’s really all I’m authorized to say at this point.” The game against Orlando was just the second one Nowitzki has missed all season. . .Point guard Dennis Smith Jr. also sat out Wednesday’s game with soreness in his left knee. But it doesn’t appear to be anything serious. “This is a little bit precautionary and a little bit we’re just (being) careful with it,” Carlisle said. “I think it’s the right move. It’s our last back-to-back and if everything else goes well he’ll play the rest of the games, but we’ll see.” . .No wonder forward Doug McDermott has never gotten past one steal in a game in his career. Look what happened to him Wednesday night. Early in the first quarter against the Magic, McDermott picked up a steal. And later on in the first quarter it appeared as though he had a second steal, but the stat crew instead gave Jalen Jones a blocked shot on the play. And there’s more. By halftime, McDermott was officially steal-less. That’s right. That steal McDermott officially recorded in the first quarter was mysteriously taken off the books. . .Mavs assistant coach Darrell Armstrong is still a fan favorite in Orlando. Armstrong, who played for the Magic from 1995-2003, ranks second on the Magic’s all-time list in steals, third in assists, fifth in games played and ninth in scoring. “I have great memories here because this was the start of my (NBA) career, the way I got here as a free agent,” Armstrong said. “It always was fun to play here because we always had good crowds here, they always had a vibe off of my energy, the way I played, the hustle I had, the excitement I brought to the game. It was always fun to come out here and compete for these fans and just leave my heart out here for them.”

Mavericks

All Stats

PLAYER MIN FG 3PT FT OREB DREB REB AST STL BLK TO PF +/- PTS
D. McDermott, SF 20 3-9 0-2 1-2 0 2 2 1 0 0 1 2 -10 7
D. Finney-Smith, PF 35 5-15 2-6 2-2 3 3 6 2 0 0 1 2 3 14
J. Motley, C 41 6-11 0-0 2-4 2 6 8 1 1 0 1 4 -15 14
A. Harrison, SG 41 5-10 3-6 0-0 1 3 4 2 1 0 0 4 -9 13
J. Barea, PG 9 2-5 0-1 0-0 1 1 2 4 0 0 2 0 -3 4
J. Jones 27 6-15 2-7 2-3 1 6 7 0 0 1 3 4 -2 16
K. Collinsworth 34 5-13 0-2 3-4 3 6 9 6 1 0 2 5 -3 13
Y. Ferrell 17 2-6 1-4 2-2 0 1 1 7 0 0 0 1 7 7
M. Kleber 11 5-5 2-2 0-0 0 4 4 1 0 0 0 1 9 12
S. Mejri 0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 -2 0
N. Noel 0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
H. Barnes 0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
S. Curry 0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
W. Matthews 0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
D. Nowitzki 0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
D. Powell 0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
D. Smith Jr. 0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
TEAM   39-89 10-30 12-17 11 32 43 24 3 1 11 23   100
    43.8% 33.3%                      

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Magic

All Stats

PLAYER MIN FG 3PT FT OREB DREB REB AST STL BLK TO PF +/- PTS
M. Hezonja, SF 34 5-14 1-6 1-2 0 8 8 4 2 3 2 1 13 12
A. Gordon, PF 25 8-16 2-6 2-2 0 4 4 1 1 1 2 2 14 20
B. Biyombo, C 22 4-4 0-0 4-5 6 6 12 5 1 1 3 2 11 12
W. Iwundu, SG 31 1-9 0-3 3-4 2 5 7 1 0 1 2 3 0 5
D. Augustin, PG 18 2-7 2-4 2-2 0 2 2 1 0 0 1 1 10 8
J. Artis 31 8-13 1-3 1-1 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 0 -9 18
S. Mack 26 5-7 1-2 2-6 0 3 3 9 0 0 1 2 1 13
R. Purvis 22 3-11 1-5 0-0 0 3 3 1 0 1 0 2 -9 7
K. Birch 25 3-5 0-0 4-5 4 4 8 5 0 2 0 2 -6 10
A. Afflalo 0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
J. Isaac 0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
M. Speights 0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
N. Vucevic 0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
E. Fournier 0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
T. Ross 0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
J. Simmons 0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
TEAM   39-86 8-29 19-27 12 35 47 27 4 10 13 15   105
    45.3% 27.6%                      

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ORLANDO – From the Dallas Mavericks’ perspective, forward Dorian Finney-Smith is just a few made perimeter shots away from being a complete all-around player.

No one with the Mavs questions Finney-Smith’s bulldog defense, his all-out hustle, or his repeated desire to give over 100 percent whenever he’s on the court. But even Finney-Smith knows that his perimeter game leaves a lot to be desired.

“He’s made great strides,” coach Rick Carlisle said, referring to Finney-Smith’s outside shot. “I don’t know what he’s shooting since he’s been back (from his injury), but it’s not so much the percentage as it is the process.

“When you make a significant change to a golf swing or a shot – if you’re a guy that’s going to have to make 3-point shots and be able to make some mid-rangers – it’s not an overnight thing and it gets worse before it gets better. You’ve got to have the stomach for that, you’ve got to have a wide-ranging view that this is going to be worth the struggle, and he’s been unwavering in his commitment to it.”

Finney-Smith missed 51 games this season from Nov. 14 until returning on Mar. 10 due to tendinitis to his left quadriceps. In the nine games he’s played since his return, the second-year veteran is 15-of-47 from the floor for 31.9 percent and 7-of-30 from beyond the 3-point arc for 23.3 percent.

“Yeah, I’m working on my shot a lot, and I know I need to improve it,” Finney-Smith said. “I think it’ll get better with time, because I’m going to keep working on it.”

Guard J.J. Barea said the release on Finney-Smith’s shot reminds him of the shot of former Mavs forward Chandler Parsons.

“It’s a little flat,” Barea said. “And the higher he gets it I think over the years it’s going to keep getting better.

“But everything else, he knows how to do it, so that’s good.”

That “everything else” Barea was alluding to is the smackdown defense that has become a huge part of Finney-Smith’s repertoire. And this past Sunday, Finney-Smith’s aggressive defense was on full display when he held Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James to only 16 points on just 5-of-21 shooting.

The 23.8 percent shooting from the field by James was his lowest in 10 years. But while Carlisle credited Finney-Smith for fighting James “pretty well the other night,” he wasn’t about to go overboard and step on Superman’s cape.

“Hey listen, we’ve got to play against (James) for a few more years,” Carlisle said. “(Finney-Smith’s) positioning was good and our team positioning was good against LeBron, too, but LeBron’s right.

“He missed a few layups. I’d like to think we influenced some of that, but I’m not fool enough to think that making any kind of idiotic statement like that on Apr. 3 of 2018 isn’t going to come back to haunt me in the fall or the winter of ’18-’19, so I’m going to keep my mouth shut.”

Lately, Carlisle has experimented by putting Finney-Smith in the starting lineup at shooting guard. That has enabled him to use his 6-8 frame, long arms and athleticism to pester much shorter players.

“That’s another opportunity for him to play a position that’s a size down from (the forward position),” Carlisle said. “He normally plays (small forward) and a little bit of (power forward).”

Barea believes getting Finney-Smith accustomed to playing shooting guard on a regular basis is going to be a big bonus for the Mavs down the road.

“That’s another thing that’s going to help him in the future,” Barea said. “It was a tough year for him because of the injury, but he’s somebody that we don’t have here – a long guard, a big guard that can play defense.

“That makes it easier and he likes doing it, and he knows he’s got to be good at it. He’s in the right place, he stays down, he’s discipline, but he’s also athletic at the same time.”

In the 17 games he’s played in this season, Finney-Smith averages 4.1 points and 2.9 rebounds in 18.2 minutes, and is shooting 36.2 percent from the field and 27.3 percent from 3-point territory. But there’s some big-time help on the way in the form of teammate Dirk Nowitzki, who is one of the best 3-point shooters in NBA history.

“I saw (Finney-Smith) shooting (Monday) with Dirk,” Carlisle said. “They were having a shooting game and he was keeping up with him, and that’s a great thing to see.”

With four games remaining in the regular season, Carlisle lauded the fact that, following an injury-riddled season, Finney-Smith will at least be able to spend the last month of the season on the court.

“It’s been great to have him back the last three weeks,” Carlisle said. “His teammates have always liked him a great deal because he’s soft-spoken, a man of few words and an ass-kicker.

“Those are the kind of guys I like being around, and his teammates do, too.”

Notes: The Mavs (24-54) ) will play the Orlando Magic(23-54) tonight at 6 p.m. CT in Orlando at the Amway Center. The game will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest and 103.3 FM ESPN. The game can also be heard in Spanish on KFLC AM 1270. . .The Mavs are 33-25 all-time against the Magic, including 12-16 on the road. . .The Mavs are 10-2 in their last 12 meetings with the Magic. . .Tonight’s game has serious Draft Lottery implications since the Magic are just half-a-game ahead of the Mavs for the most ping-pong balls in the lottery hopper. . .Back on Jan. 9 in Dallas, the Mavs outscored Orlando, 71-51, in the second half en route to claiming a 114-99 victory. Dirk Nowitzki and Dennis Smith Jr. each scored 20 points in that game, and Wesley Matthews tallied 16 points. Aaron Gordon came off the bench to lead all Orlando scorers with 19 points. . .This is the opener of a three-game road trip that continues Friday in Detorit and Sunday in Philadelphia before the Mavs return home to play their final game of the season on Tuesday against Phoenix. . .When asked to sum up this season for the Mavs, coach Rick Carlisle said: “It’s been unusual because it’s been extremely productive in terms of the development of a lot of our roster, but unproductive in terms of wins. We’re planting and sowing some seeds that will bear fruit down the road. The truth is, last year and this year we’ve had great guys. When you get guys like (Yogi) Ferrell and (Dorian) Finney-Smith or undrafted guys, and they turn out to be guys that are playing at a level in your system to where down the road people will look back and say ‘Those guys should have been first-round picks,’ that’s very rewarding for a franchise, and I still feel that way about those two guys. This is a big challenge for our organization to rebuild this roster to not only be a team that can win some games, but to be a team that can win in the playoffs and eventually contend (for an NBA title). It doesn’t happen overnight.”

Injury updates

Harrison Barnes (rest) – out
Seth Curry (left leg surgery) – out
Wesley Matthews (right proximal fibula fracture) – out
Salah Mejri (right knee contusion) – questionable
Nerlens Noel (league suspension) — out
Dirk Nowitzki (left ankle impingement) – out
Dwight Powell (left knee bursitis) – out
Dennis Smith Jr. (left knee soreness) – out