Game 39: Mavs vs. Warriors

Rookie Dennis Smith Jr.’s late-game execution has helped to spark Mavs’ four-game winning streak

DALLAS — Although it’s just a small sample size during his rookie season, first-year floor general Dennis Smith Jr. has shown how much he relishes being in the big-time moment for the Dallas Mavericks during the last four games.

Sparking a four-game winning streak, Smith has been on the floor in each of those contests as the Mavericks (13-25) secured a victory late in the fourth quarter. He’s also stepped up his play when the Mavericks needed him most, including scoring the team’s final 11 points Sunday to clinch a 116-113 victory in Oklahoma City. And according to the ninth overall selection in last June’s NBA Draft, more success is to come as Mavs coach Rick Carlisle and the team’s veteran leaders entrust him with opportunities down the stretch of games.

“It’s all about just trusting each other at the end of games,” Smith said after scoring 19 points, grabbing five rebounds and dishing six assists during Sunday’s win. “We’ve got a team that we like each other outside of basketball, so it’s not hard to do. It’s just been taking some time, but I think we’ve figured it out now, though.

“I just go out there and do what I do. The last four games have been close ones. I’ve been in the last four games, we won the last four games, so something is working.”

On the season, Smith is averaging 13.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.3 assists in 30 games, shooting 39.6 percent from the field and 33.6 percent from three-point range. He’s also increased his production during the last four games, averaging 14.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists in that span while upping his playing time from 27.7 minutes an outing on the season to 28.9 during the winning streak. Still, despite seeing plenty of personal success during the Mavs’ recent victorious stretch, Smith says he’s just been eager to help contribute to a string of wins.

“I wouldn’t say it adds fuel to the fire. Like I told coach [Carlisle] the other day, I expect to have big games. You know, whenever I have bad games, that will motivate me even more. But coming out and having big games, I definitely want to repeat it. But I kind of expect it. … It’s about wanting the moment. If you want it, I wanted it, and I wanted to be in a position to shoot it at the end of the game,” Smith explained.

The 20-year-old has seen his fair share of historic moments throughout his rookie year, debuting with 16 points and 10 assists in the Mavericks’ season opener on Oct. 18 to become the youngest player in NBA history to record a double-double with points and assists in his first game. He also recently recorded his first career triple-double with 21 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists during the Mavs’ 128-120 win Friday in New Orleans, becoming the third-youngest player in league history to reach the feat and the youngest Mav ever to do so. However, it’s Smith’s recent late-game play that is earning the respect of Carlisle and 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki. That said, Smith figures to have the ball in his hands late once again moving forward.

“I mean, Dennis has been spectacular for us in crunch time, making plays and getting to the basket,” Nowitzki said following Sunday’s win. “He’s finding guys on the perimeter. … I mean, it always comes down to getting stops, getting rebounds and scoring on the other end, and (Sunday) we kind of did it by committee. I mean, [Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook] hit a huge three. [Smith] hit two big threes, and that gave us a nice little lead to close it out.”

“He was great (Sunday night). You know, he finished the game with a couple of big baskets and some big free throws,” Carlisle added while praising the rookie point guard. “Look, it was an up-and-down night. There were a lot of pick-and-rolls, and they were trapping him. He hasn’t seen that. He went through some situations, but he kept his energy up, he kept his head up and he kept attacking. He kept encouraging everybody in the huddles during timeouts, too, so it was just so much growth. I’m really happy for him.”

Note: The Mavericks will now return to their home floor on Wednesday night at American Airlines Center against the defending champion Golden State Warriors. Golden State leads the season series 2-0. The game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest and 103.3 FM ESPN. The game will also air in Spanish on KFLC AM 1270. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting Mavs.com, or by calling (214) 747-MAVS.

Injury updates:

Dorian Finney-Smith (left knee quadriceps tendinitis) — out
Seth Curry (stress reaction, left tibia) — out
Nerlens Noel (left thumb surgery) — out

Game 65: Mavs vs. Suns

Highlights: Mavs vs. Suns

Check out all the top plays from Saturday night's game against the Suns.

Stingy defense has fueled Mavs’ winning streak

DALLAS — Although it admittedly wasn’t pretty for the Dallas Mavericks during an 88-78 victory Sunday at Minnesota, the win did continue the team’s recent surge up the Western Conference standings.

Shooting just 38.6 percent from the field in the game, the Mavericks (39-38) charged back above .500 by winning their fourth game in a row. The Mavs also held the Timberwolves to just 40.8 percent shooting on the defensive end, ending the game with a 44-41 rebounding edge while converting Minnesota’s 18 turnovers into 20 points. And after seeing his team hold a fourth straight opponent under 90 points for the first time since doing so in six consecutive outings back in January of 2012, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle praised the effort of his players on the defensive side of the ball.

“We were having a rough night shooting the ball. And when you’re having a rough night shooting the ball, the only thing that’s going to hold you in NBA games is the ability to get stops,” Carlisle said after seeing his team lock in defensively. “We did a great job defensively, and everybody was involved. I thought that (Zaza) Pachulia played great defense, and Justin Anderson had a great defensive game. You know, Wes (Matthews) is always going to give you high-level defense, but I thought our team defense and our collective will carried us.”

The Mavericks certainly got off to a sluggish start defensively during Sunday’s showdown, allowing the Timberwolves to shoot 12 of 19 from the field while trailing 27-22 after the first quarter. The Dallas defense then began to stiffen in the second stanza, limiting the Timberwolves to just 4-of-19 shooting during the quarter and forcing five turnovers to take a 41-40 edge on the scoreboard entering the halftime intermission.

That formula remained in place during the second half as the Mavs continued to scramble on defense, finishing the game holding the Timberwolves to just 39.4 percent shooting in the final two quarters and converting Minnesota’s seven turnovers into 10 points during the game’s last 24 minutes. The Mavs will now try to carry that defensive success over to Wednesday’s pivotal matchup at home against the Southwest Division rival Houston Rockets in a game with heavy playoff implications.

“We didn’t have a great defensive start, I felt. You know, [the Timberwolves] had 20-something with a few minutes to go in the first quarter, so that wasn’t really the defensive start we wanted. But after that I thought we did pretty well, trying to keep them out of the lane,” 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki admitted after Sunday’s win.

He added: “We recovered well, but obviously we’ve got a lot bigger challenges coming up here. It’s a tough week, and we’ve got our hands full.”

The Mavericks have increased their defensive intensity since giving up a season-high points total in Sacramento on March 27 while falling to a 133-111 road loss. In the process, the Mavs haven’t tasted defeat since that disappointing display, using their defensive pressure to carry them to wins as the regular season draws to a close.

The Mavericks have given up an average of 86 points during the last four games, holding opponents to 42.2 percent shooting during that span. The Dallas defense is also forcing 17 turnovers an outing during the winning streak, relying on the takeaways to make up for just 41.7 percent shooting on the offensive end. And with a strong defensive presence carrying the Mavs during a critical stretch in the schedule, the team has admittedly used its last loss as a galvanizing experience.

“A lot of these games aren’t going to be pretty for us, but we try to play our way through it,” reserve guard Devin Harris explained. “Defensively, I think in the second half (on Sunday) we kind of locked into what they were doing. We did a great job of just contesting shots. And offensively, it wasn’t pretty in the first half, but shots began to fall in the second half.

“The season is full of highs and lows. And obviously, (the loss in Sacramento) was a low point for us with the guys that we have out. But with the guys that we do have, we’re playing hard and trying to live with the results. I think everybody just kind of looked in the mirror and looked at what they can do to help the team. Obviously, nobody had played well at that point. You know, we were just at a low point as a team. But I think we still had time to really turn things around, and we’re still in control of our destiny. I think guys are just focusing on defense, rebounding and playing hard, and we’ll see what happens.”

Note: The Mavericks will now return to their home floor on Wednesday, hosting the Houston Rockets. Houston leads season series 2-1. The game will tip off at 8:30 p.m. CT, airing nationally on ESPN and locally on Fox Sports Southwest and 103.3 FM ESPN. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting Mavs.com, or by calling (214) 747-MAVS.

baylor

Injury updates presented by Baylor Emergency Medical Centers:

Deron Williams (left groin and abdominal strain) — day-to-day

Chandler Parsons (right knee surgery) — out for the remainder of the season

Jeremy Evans (right shoulder surgery) — out for the remainder of the season

Game 12: Mavs at Celtics

Mavericks vs. Celtics

Dirk Nowitzki scores 23 points as the Mavericks rally to beat the Celtics 106-102.