OKLAHOMA CITY — Despite filling up the stat sheet Friday night in New Orleans while recording his first career triple-double during a 128-120 win, Dallas Mavericks rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. still knows there’s plenty of things he needs to work on moving forward.
Scoring 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the field and 5-of-7 shooting from three-point range, Smith led the way to the Mavericks’ third straight victory while grabbing a career-high 10 rebounds and dishing 10 assists. In the process, Smith became the third-youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double behind Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball and four-time MVP LeBron James at 20 years, 34 days old. He also became the youngest Mav to register a triple-double in franchise history. But after also committing seven turnovers in the win, Smith says he will need to take much better care of the ball in order to lead the Mavericks (12-25) to more success.
“It feels great since we won, but I almost had a quadruple-double. I had a lot of turnovers. But my teammates picked me up, and they told me to keep playing. My coaches said the same thing, so they showed confidence in me to play through mistakes. That just gave me extra confidence to go out there and do my thing,” Smith admitted.
Smith is no stranger to triple-doubles, recording two during his lone collegiate season at North Carolina State. He also was the first player in ACC history to record two triple-doubles in the same season during conference play, becoming the first player to lead the conference among freshmen in points and assists since Ed Cota during the ’96-97 season. Now, Smith is the first Mav to record a triple-double since Raymond Felton on Dec. 12, 2015.
However, according to both Smith and Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, it’s the costly miscues that the first-year floor general needs to correct in order to reach his maximum potential. And after showing that he can play through those mistakes, Smith will attempt to correct them in time for Sunday’s matchup in Oklahoma City.
“I mean, it happened in college twice for me, so it’s not foreign to me,” Smith said while downplaying his do-it-all play. “Knowing personnel, that’s one thing that’s important. Knowing the plays, knowing which guys are going to be where, how the team is going to defend it and if this option is going to be available, it’s a lot that goes into it. I mean, you learn all that through film and making mistakes. You’re going to make mistakes, but you’ve got to play through them. It’s bound to happen, but you’ve got to move on to the next play. It’s all about keeping that confidence throughout the game.”
“It’s a great sign that he’s really critical of his turnovers, ’cause those are an example of another important event that happened,” Carlisle echoed. “Every time that we turn the ball over as a team it’s leading to something bad. And when the point guard gets turnovers, often times he’s penetrating the lane, and that puts him at a disadvantage coming back and transition defense becomes another event. There’s a lot going on with this, but our message has got to be consistent to him. You know, we drafted him because we think he can be a great player and one of the best players ever to play in a Mavericks uniform, on the one hand. On the other hand, the things that are really essential to winning and are very nuance aren’t screaming out to the world the way a triple-double is. So, I spent some time with him this morning watching some things that he needs to clean up. And he’s understanding that, which is a huge step.”
Note: The Mavericks will now head Oklahoma City and conclude their road trip Sunday against the Thunder. The season series is tied at 1-1. The game will tip off at 6 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.
The Mavs return to their home floor next 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.
Dorian Finney-Smith (left knee quadriceps tendinitis) — out
Seth Curry (stress reaction, left tibia) — out
Josh McRoberts (lower extremity injury) — out
Nerlens Noel (left thumb surgery) — out