Three home games produced two wins and Sunday’s 123-120 loss to the Atlantic Division-leading Toronto Raptors.
The homestand also supplied a kernel of optimism _ maybe even more than a kernel _ that this Luka Doncic-Dennis Smith Jr. pairing has a legitimate chance of surviving.
Doncic, of course, continues to wow the world. He had his second triple double with 35 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. On the home stand, he averaged 28 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists.
Smith? He had 13 points, six assists and four rebounds against the Raptors and averaged 16.3 points, 5 assists and 4.7 rebounds on the home stand after missing six games because of health problems. Rust did not seem to be a problem for the second year athlete.
What everybody is learning is that a well-oiled backcourt doesn’t happen overnight. And growing pains are inevitable. Veteran Mavericks know this to be true.
“Everybody wants it right now,” 14-year vet Devin Harris said. “And some things don’t happen that quick. Some things you have to be patient with. But you’re starting to see flashes.”
Harris said that he and Dirk Nowitzki and J.J. Barea and other older teammates are quick to offer help whenever the young backcourt mates might need it.
“For sure,” he said. “I think they’re starting to realize that more than anything, they just need time. And they haven’t had a whole lot of that. Obviously, Luka kind of jumped ahead of expectations. And Dennis is still learning how to play this game and trying to reach that potential. But I think they’re both really good players in different ways. Just be patient.”
Smith has long since grown tired of talking about how he and Doncic mesh. He sees no problems and stresses that the best is yet to come.
“They’re looking too far into it,” Smith said. “That’s my dog. All the speculation, it needs to stop. I don’t even like answering questions about it. I never thought it was an issue from the jump. We’ve been since the beginning of the year.”
The bottom line is that Smith and Doncic have only played 30 games together. Smith has missed 18 with a variety of relatively minor health issues. Doncic has missed one game.
And like everybody else, Smith has been impressed by the way the 19-year-old rookie Doncic has accelerated his growth.
“It just shows you what he can do,” Smith said of Doncic’s second triple double of his rookie season. “He makes an impact on multiple areas of the game and we definitely need that.”
Added Harris: “This kid was the European MVP at 18. For him to come over and play as well as he is, it’s not like he’s an ordinary rookie. I don’t know what the talent level is like over in Europe, but he obviously was dominating over there. So it’s not surprising.”