LAS VEGAS – While Friday’s summer league opener between the Dallas Mavericks and Brooklyn Nets was still in progress, a lot of fans took to social media to discuss their displeasure with the way Isaiah Roby was playing.
However, the rookie forward from Nebraska wound up getting the last laugh.
Roby’s 15-footer with 24.5 seconds remaining gave Dallas a four-point lead, and the Mavs hung on to clip the Nets, 96-92, in the opener of the MGM Resorts NBA Summer League at Cox Pavilion.
The Mavs will play their second summer league game on Saturday at 8 p.m. CT against the Houston Rockets.
Roby finished with 10 points, four rebounds and a pair of block shots, and was 5-of-12 from the field. But none of his shots were bigger than the baseline jumper he took to vault the Mavs ahead, 93-89.
“He won us the game,” said guard Cameron Payne, who finished with 18 points and three steals. “That’s the biggest shot of the game. That’s A-list. It takes a lot to take it. He’s a big-time guy.”
After receiving a pass from Payne, Roby noted that he knew the ball was going through the net once it left his hands.
“It felt good the whole way,” said Roby, a second-round draft pick last month who started and played 28 minutes. “My man lost me and couldn’t find me.”
The Mavs showed a lot of resiliency after building a 14-point lead in the first half, and then recovering after falling behind by two points in the second half.
“Basketball is a game of runs,” said guard Daryl Macon, who collected 16 points and four assists. “They made their run, we made our run early and we just had to slow their run down and just close the game out.”
Brooklyn closed to within 93-92 when Josh Gray hit three free throws after he was fouled by Payne while attempting a 3-pointer with 10.1 seconds remaining. Macon then nailed a free throw, and Antonius Cleveland added two more from the stripe with 5.4 seconds left to account for the game’s final points.
“As a team we played great,” Macon said. “We’ve been bonding the past week, and we went out there and we trusted each other.
“I think I played good, but I’ve got to give my teammates all the credit.”
From a defensive standpoint, it was sheer textbook basketball by the Mavs, who turned 22 Brooklyn turnovers into 27 points, and also secured most of the 50/50 balls by outhustling the Nets.
“We’ve been harping all camp long about their energy, their effort, their hard play – all those things wrapped together – and their cohesion,” coach Mike Weinar said of he Mavs. “I thought for a team that just came together five days ago, or four days ago, whatever it is, I thought we really played together and we played hard.
“Shots are going to come and go – we talked about that a lot. Being together (is important), and understanding hard play is what wins games.”
Certainly the play of Cleveland was key to the Mavs’ victory. Cleveland poured in a game-high 22 points on 7-of-12 shots, and his 16 points helped stake the Mavs to a 50-39 lead at intermission.
“In the first half I thought he was everywhere,” Weinar said. “I know we had to pull him out there — he tweaked his ankle a little bit.
“I’m sure our training staff is all over that, but I was real impressed with his energy. He’s focused. We’re going to try to get him to be a little more verbal, but man, I was real impressed with him today.”
Of his first-half performance, Cleveland said: “I just wanted to play with high energy and just be aggressive.”
Another player who impressed was Japan’s Yudai Baba. With several Japanese reporters, photographers and cameramen chronicling his every move, the 6-4 guard was all over the floor creating havoc.
Moving like an energizer bunny, Baba wound up with five points, a team-high six rebounds and a team-high tying three steals. He also saved a ball from going out of bounds, then came down the floor and buried a 3-pointer to give the Mavs a 70-65 lead late in the third quarter.
“His stat line doesn’t prove (how) he impacted the game,” Weinar said. “He really was all over the floor.
“(He had) a couple of loose balls, and he was really a force for us from an energy standpoint. And I was really proud of him for that and we’re looking for that going forward.”
The Mavs also were proud of Roby.
“Initially we had to get him comfortable,” Weinar said. “It’s his first time in an NBA setting, but he’s going to be OK.
“He’s a battler, he does a good job with communication, he’s in multiple positions. He’s all over the place, so we’re excited about him and we’ll see what happens (against Houston.”