Game 47: Mavs vs. Wizards

One-on-one with Dennis Smith Jr.

Earl K. Sneed goes one-on-one with Dennis Smith Jr. prior to tonight's game against the Wizards.

The Fast Break: Mavs at Trail Blazers

Final: Blazers 117, Mavs 108

Box Score | Highlights

Behind the Box Score

The Mavs’ streak of clutch games extended to 14 tonight. Clutch is defined by a game when the score is within five points any time inside the final five minutes. Dallas has now played a league-leading 31 clutch games. For reference, Utah is 30th, having played only 16 such games, meaning Dallas has almost as many clutch contests in this streak alone as some teams have all season long. That’s a crazy stat.

Notebook

  • Blazers guard Damian Lillard got off to a sensational start tonight, hitting his first nine shots from the field. That led to a pretty interesting defensive adjustment by Rick Carlisle and the Mavericks. Starting toward the end of the second quarter, pretty much anytime Lillard would come off a ball-screen, the big man would lunge toward Lillard, blitzing him alongside his defender. With that strategy, the defense was able to keep the ball mostly out of Lillard’s hands, but the problem is Portland got off to such a red-hot start early in the game that the entire team seemed to develop a rhythm, especially from deep, and so the Blazers were able to make due even without Lillard’s influence in the fourth quarter. Still, the Mavs were able to pull off the double-teaming pretty well, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see that coverage pop up every now and again in the future if an opposing point guard becomes hot.

  • Dennis Smith Jr. put together his third consecutive game with at least 20 points, and his 10th straight with at least 10 points. He had another strong second half and fourth quarter, reminiscent of what he was able to achieve in Denver the other night, although unfortunately the club was unable to win either game. However, the rookie is beginning to make a more noticeable, tangible impact on the game by consistently attacking the basket and forcing teams into uncomfortable situations. He can get up the floor and in a position to drive the lane extremely quickly, and that caught the Blazers off-balance several times tonight.

    Most notably, Smith used a momentary lapse in concentration by Lillard to dart up the floor while his opponent was arguing a whistle. By the time Lillard was able to realize what had happened, Smith was already delivering a crisp pass to Maxi Kleber the corner.

    He didn’t only use those powers for passing, though. Smith has now made at least three free throws in four straight games. That might not seem like a very impressive streak, but he’s a rookie, and first-year players rarely get the benefit of a steady whistle. Six of his 13 games with at least three free throws have all come in the last four weeks, which means he’s slowly beginning to figure out how to force contact. This play was a good example of that.

    Smith appears to be getting more comfortable changing speeds and probing the lane, waiting for small cracks in the defense to exploit. Once he’s in the teeth and has opponents off-balance, he’s much more likely to draw contact than he would be by simply straight-line driving at a set defender. We’re witnessing his development up-close.

  • Wesley Matthews had another 20-point game at Portland. In his five games at Moda Center since joining the Mavericks, Matthews has averaged 21 points per contest against his old team, shooting well above 40 percent on 3-pointers in those contests. It’s clear that he gets up for those showdowns, and it’s cool to see the crowd receive him warmly each time, too. He was beloved there for his defense and shooting, and so far as a Maverick he’s made sure to put both qualities on full display every time he’s gone back.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (15-31) will play the Washington Wizards (26-20) on Monday at American Airlines Center at 7:30 p.m. Central.

  • Game 46: Mavs at Trail Blazers

    Yogi reminisces in Portland

    Yogi Ferrell looks back on the last time he played in Portland, where he went off for nine three-pointers!

    That’s What’s Up: Episode 27

    Don’t know what’s up?

    NBA champion Shawn Marion’s got you covered. Feast your ears on episode 27 of his podcast, as “The Matrix” chops it up with Danny Bollinger on hoops, life and everything in between.

    Mavs know they’ll need to hit first Saturday in Portland after narrow defeat at Denver

    DALLAS — Despite rallying back from a 23-point deficit to pull within one during the final minute of Tuesday’s 105-102 loss at Denver, the Dallas Mavericks know it was a missed opportunity to claim a coveted road win after putting themselves in an uphill climb.

    The Mavericks (15-30) outscored the Nuggets during the fourth quarter, 33-19, led by rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. posting 11 of his 25 points in the final period. The Mavs also trailed by just one at 103-102 after Smith’s driving three-point play with 10.4 seconds remaining. Still, despite the valiant comeback, the Mavericks know they’ll have to avoid putting themselves in that position Saturday night on the road against the Portland Trail Blazers.

    “We already know we’re going to come back, but we shouldn’t have been in that situation,” Mavs veteran swingman Wesley Matthews proclaimed before playing his former team. “[The Nuggets] are a good team, and [Denver] is obviously a tough environment to play in, but we did what we were supposed to do. I wish we could have taken care of business a little earlier in the game and not make it so close, but they’re a good team. We’ve got to be better come Saturday.”

    Since capturing four straight wins from Dec. 26-31, the Mavericks have dropped five out of seven games by a combined 19 points. Nine of their last 12 games have also been decided by five points or less, going 6-6 during that span. That trend could continue if the Mavs find themselves in another dogfight in the fourth quarter Saturday night during their first matchup of the season with the Trail Blazers (24-21). But according to Mavs leading scorer Harrison Barnes, it’s imperative that his team gets off to a better start in order to avoid another narrow defeat.

    The Mavericks have been outscored in the first quarter during six of their last seven games by a total of 211-171. The outcome has been a 2-5 record during that stretch, falling by an average of 3.8 points in the five losses. That said, the Mavs can credit their sluggish starts to games for their recent slide. And as Barnes points out, the Mavericks will need to come out aggressively to capture a win Saturday night.

    “I mean, it’s realizing that, although we can fight back, we always can’t get the lead and just can’t get the win. So, it’s about starting the game out the right way,” Barnes explained. “We obviously have had a lot of different lineups in. But as a group with the starting unit, we’ve just got to do a better job of starting out the game the right way, holding down the fort and setting the tone.

    “I mean, one way to look at it is we’re in a lot of close games, and we just can’t get over the hump. The other way to look at it is we’re 15-30, so I think the biggest thing we have to do is we just have to convert late-game,” he added. “Whether it’s defensive execution or offensive execution, I think we’ve won and lost games down the stretch almost every imaginable way. So, I think collectively it’s our starts. I think that’s where it’s happening. The starts in the first (quarter) and the starts in the third (quarter). It’s not always what happens late-game.”

    Note: The Mavericks will now travel to Portland for Saturday’s matchup against the Trail Blazers. The game will tip off at 9 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 American Airlines Center on Jan. 22 against the Washington Wizards. Dallas leads the season series 1-0 after a 113-99 road win on Nov. 7. 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:

    J.J. Barea (left groin strain) — day-to-day
    Dorian Finney-Smith (left knee quadriceps tendinitis) — out
    Seth Curry (stress reaction, left tibia) — out
    Nerlens Noel (left thumb surgery) — out

    For Dirk Nowitzki, finishing games has come secondary to Mavs’ young core getting crunch-time minutes

    DALLAS — Although he admits that not being out on the court during crunch time for the Dallas Mavericks is something he’s yet to get accustom to, 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki has willingly sacrificed his playing time late in games to allow the team to develop its young contributors.

    This season, Nowitzki is averaging just 12.2 points per game, which is his lowest total since his rookie year during the 1998-99 campaign. He’s also shooting 46.5 percent from the field and 41.2 percent from beyond the three-point line. However, with his fourth-quarter playing time limited to allow the Mavericks’ young contributors to gain experience, Nowitzki has been rendered to being the team’s lead cheerleader late in games. And while he admits that it’s been an adjustment, the 20-year veteran says he’s taken on a different role to help the franchise move forward in seasons to come.

    “You know, it’s different. I mean, the new timeout rule hurts it a little bit, ’cause you used to have a million timeouts down the stretch, and you could just score one and get out. If they scored, then get out or get in. It’s just not happening anymore. It’s a little more free-flowing. You don’t have as many timeouts down the stretch, and it’s usually better for us to have a defensive lineup out there with Dwight (Powell) or Maxi (Kleber) some,” Nowitzki explained. “Usually teams all go small nowadays, especially down the stretch, and there’s five shooters out there, a lot of pick-and-rolls, and we feel like we need a little more mobile guy out there. And at times where there is a timeout, I’ll come back in and maybe spread the floor to help the guys score. But I’ve just been supporting the guys and trying to help them get the job done to get some wins.

    “I mean, we’re losing, so most of the time it’s obviously hard to watch. I wish we’d be winning more, but we haven’t been great down the stretch. We’ve got to find ways to get the big stops. … And of course, it’s tough.”

    This season, the 39-year-old Nowitzki is averaging 6.0 minutes in the fourth quarter, scoring 3.2 points per outing in the period on 49.1 percent shooting from the field and 41.2 percent from three-point range. According to NBA.com, that’s drastically down from the Mavericks’ 2010-11 title season when Nowitzki averaged 6.4 points on 49.8 percent shooting and 33.3 percent from three in 9.3 minutes per outing during the fourth quarter. That trend is likely to continue, coach Rick Carlisle admits, as the Mavericks (15-30) try to develop their young core. However, Carlisle also adds that Nowitzki could see additional time in the fourth period if the Mavs’ young contributors continue to struggle closing games.

    “Well, you know, he can be (out there). A lot of it depends on situational matchups. You know, in our present situation, in many ways I feel it’s important for our young guys to experience these kinds of situations and go through it,” Carlisle confessed. “I’m very careful about extending his minutes, playing him crazy amounts of minutes in games where we quite frankly have to look at our overall picture and have to look at developing these young guys. Now, if the young guys just aren’t playing well, there’s going to be other guys in there. … But those guys need to go through it, learn and get better.”

    Note: The Mavericks will now travel to Portland for Saturday’s matchup against the Trail Blazers. The game will tip off at 9 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 American Airlines Center on Jan. 22 against the Washington Wizards. Dallas leads the season series 1-0 after a 113-99 road win on Nov. 7. 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:

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

    The Fast Break: Mavs at Nuggets

    Final: Nuggets 105, Mavs 102

    Box Score | Highlights

    Behind the Box Score

    Dennis Smith Jr. recorded his ninth consecutive double-digit scoring game. It’s the longest such streak by any Mavs rookie since Marquis Daniels did it 11 straight times late in the 2003-04 season. (Smith’s also had stretches of eight and seven games at different times this season.) One more game with 10+ points and Junior will become just the ninth rookie in franchise history with 10 straight with 10 or more. He has no chance to break the record, though: Jay Vincent scored in double-figures a whopping 65 straight times during the 1981-82 season. That truly is a Mavs record that might never be broken.

    Smith ended up with 25 points, his eighth game this season with 20-plus this season. With one more, he’ll tie Jason Kidd and Jim Jackson, who had nine apiece in 1994-95 and 1992-93, respectively. He was phenomenal, particularly in transition.

    The Mavericks trailed 99-83 late in the fourth quarter but used a 14-2 run to pull to within 101-97 with under two minutes to go. They eventually pulled to within one point with 10 seconds left. This team does not go down without a fight.

    Notebook

  • An injury to a reserve player typically doesn’t lead to a change in the starting lineup, but the Mavs have always done things a little differently. With J.J. Barea out with a left groin strain and Yogi Ferrell having started the last couple games, Dallas would have running short on playmakers off the bench if it stuck with the usual group. Rick Carlisle’s solution was to return back to the old starting lineup, replacing Ferrell with Maxi Kleber and reuniting the second-year guard with Devin Harris in the second unit. That put a little more responsibility on those guys’ shoulders, not only to replacing Barea’s scoring but also his playmaking to keep everyone involved. Devin Harris was able to hook up with Dwight Powell for an impressive dunk. (More on his scoring later.)

    Barea hopes to play Saturday against Portland, and fortunately the Mavericks have three days off until that game to get Barea up and running and treat any other aches and pains they have after a quick first half of the season. Three off days in between games will be their longest break in between games all season, and they won’t have another break this long (aside from the All-Star break) until March.

  • Devin Harris had one of his finest scoring nights of the season, pouring in 16 points in 18 minutes off the bench. It was one point off his season-high mark of 17, set on Dec. 29 against New Orleans. Harris has quietly been shooting the ball brilliantly as of late, after an inauspicious 19-game run from early November through mid-December during which he shot just 30.6 percent from beyond the arc. In the 13 games since, he’s shooting above 42 percent from 3-point land. No matter what he himself shoots, the team tends to play better when he’s on the floor than when he’s off. But when he’s shooting as well as he has been, understandably it makes him that much more valuable. Dallas is 6-7 in those 13 games and just 9-23 in the 32 preceding contests.

  • Maxi Kleber had an opportunity at extended minutes tonight for the first time since being replaced in the starting lineup, and he was able to take advantage of that time by making a couple nice highlight plays in the second half. First, he had a pretty emphatic block.

    The cool thing about this play is that, just seconds earlier, he committed a turnover. Instead of compounding one mistake with another by not getting back on defense, Kleber hustled back and made a play. A couple minutes later, karma rewarded him with his efforts by giving him a chance to throw down a vicious alley-oop dunk.

    More of that, big fella!

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (15-30) will play the Portland Trail Blazers (22-21 on Saturday at the Moda Center at 9 p.m. Central.