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

Despite first career triple-double, Mavs rookie Dennis Smith Jr. knows there’s room to grow

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.

Injury updates:

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

Despite rough start, Dennis Smith Jr. provided Mavs with what they’d missed during six-game absence with hip strain

DALLAS — While he admits that it took some time to get back into the flow after missing six games due to a left hip strain, rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. provided the Dallas Mavericks with exactly what they missed in his return Wednesday night during a 110-93 runaway victory over Detroit.

Scoring 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting, Smith filled up the stat sheet with five rebounds and five assists to boot during Wednesday’s win. He also provided the Mavericks (9-23) with lockdown defense by picking up fullcourt, helping the team work out of an early nine-point deficit. And after helping the Mavs to end a three-game losing streak, Smith quickly earned the praise of head coach Rick Carlisle and 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki following the win.

“It was bad, great, shaky and good,” Carlisle candidly said while grading Smith’s return. “Look, it’s going to be tough coming off of two weeks and not playing an NBA game. The beginning was a struggle, but I’ve got to say the way he helped us finish the first half was probably the difference of the game. So, he’s extremely important to us.”

“We needed that,” Nowitzki echoed. “We were missing some of the stuff that he brings, obviously. With his mindset of always attacking in the open court, he made some great plays at the rim early. That set a good tone for us.”

On the season, Smith is averaging 14.4 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists in his 24 outings, giving the Mavericks consistency at the point guard position. He’s also shooting just 39.7 percent from the field and 30.7 percent from three-point range, showing that the 20-year-old still has plenty of room to grow. Still, after effectively returning from a lengthy layoff, Smith expects to improve on those numbers as his conditioning continuous to improve.

Perhaps more importantly, Smith hopes to utilize the lessons he learned during his six-game absence after watching from the sideline as the Mavericks competed without him. That said, Smith believes the best is yet to come during his rookie campaign as he learns when and where to attack.

“I was just coming out and trying to do what I do. My legs were heavy at first, and I had to get my second wind,” Smith explained while summing up his night. “Second quarter, we closed it out strong. I started pressuring the ball some more, and we picked up the intensity as a whole defensively. We hit some shots, and that’s probably what changed it.

“I feel good. I feel real good. It’s going to take some time, but really I feel real good today on my wind. Like I said, my legs were heavy at first, but as soon as I came back in I felt great,” he added. “You know, I learned a lot about how Yogi (Ferrell) could be effective in the game, and I can do some of the same things. J.J. (Barea) and Devin (Harris), it’s the same with them. And I learned some of the personnel, like Maxi (Kleber), [Dwight Powell] and Dirk. You know, it’s a different perspective whenever you just sit from the first quarter to the fourth and watch.”

Note: The Mavericks will now hit the road for a two-game trip, traveling to Miami for Friday’s matchup against the Heat. The game will tip off at 7 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 on Tuesday night at American Airlines Center against the Detroit Pistons. 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. 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
Josh McRoberts (lower extremity injury) — out
Nerlens Noel (left thumb surgery) — out

After producing career-high scoring night, Dennis Smith Jr. hopes to lead Mavs to more wins

DALLAS — He produced a career-high scoring night Tuesday against the Southwest Division-leading San Antonio Spurs, scoring 18 points during the fourth quarter. But after seeing the Dallas Mavericks suffer a 97-91 defeat to run their losing streak to three games, rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. says he needs to do more in order to lead his team to a win.

Scoring a career-high 27 points on 10-of-23 shooting and 5 of 11 from three-point range, Smith led the Mavericks (2-13) in a losing effort while grabbing six rebounds and dishing two assists. The 19-year-old Smith also became the youngest player in franchise history with at least 25 points and five rebounds in a game. Smith has recorded three 20-point games during the Mavs’ last four outings, averaging 19.6 points on 41.1 percent shooting and 37 percent from three-point range during the month of November. Still, Smith says his personal statistics were meaningless without team success. And with three more matchups left on the Mavericks’ current four-game homestand, Smith will attempt to do more while helping his team get on track.

“We’ve got to get something that translates to wins. Whether it’s 27 or seven (points), we’ve got to get some wins,” Smith explained. “We’ve got to get some wins. That’s about it. I’m just trying to make plays to get wins, man. That’s it.”

On the season, Smith is averaging 15.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and a team-best 4.7 assists in 13 games, shooting 40.6 percent from the field and 32.4 percent from three-point range. He’s also committing 3.5 turnovers an outing, displaying the growing pains of a first-year floor general.

Meanwhile, Smith says he’s still trying to find the balance of being aggressive as a scorer within the flow of the Dallas offense and getting his teammates involved. But after his best scoring performance of the season, Smith says he hopes to be better engineering the offensive attack while leading the Dallas squad to a much-needed victory.

“That’s something that we’re working on learning. Well, I know at least with me, I’ve got a lot to learn about that, trying to get into the paint and still not dribble too much. It’s just taking some time. I haven’t figured it out yet, but I’m sure it will come around, though,” Smith admitted.

He added: “I’m still getting about wherever I want most of the game. It’s just something has got to translate to wins. Something has got to change. We’ll figure out what that is hopefully (Wednesday), and then finish this little homestand strong.”

Showing his raw athleticism and natural ability early in his rookie season, Smith has begun to garner the attention of opposing defenses. That said, limiting the cat-quick guard’s effectiveness has become the focal point of the opposition, according to Mavs coach Rick Carlisle. Now, Smith has to adjust to the many defensive looks teams are giving him on a nightly basis. But according to Carlisle, the budding star is more than up for the challenge.

“He’s going to continue to get attention, ‘cause he’s a (darn) good player. And this is good for him,” Carlisle said with high praise for Smith. “He’s going to continue to learn a lot in very short periods of time. … He’s learning how to read those situations, and he’s going to continue to get better and better.

“Just continue to make good reads, and continue to learn about situations that are going to come up the first time you go through the league,” the coach added. “Each game he progresses. And in many ways each game it does get harder, ‘cause there’s more scouting film on him and different things to try to neutralize his strengths. You know, he’s just got to understand the gauntlet of different coverages, defenders, bigger guys, switching lineups and smaller guys that are going to try to pick him up fullcourt. There’s going to be an array of different things.”

Note: The Mavericks will now continue their homestand Friday night at American Airlines Center against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Minnesota leads the season series 1-0 after a 112-99 home win on Nov. 4. 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
Devin Harris (bruised ribs) — out
Seth Curry (stress reaction, left tibia) — out
Josh McRoberts (lower extremity injury) — out

Mavs’ rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. showed poise, aggression in win against Wizards

DALLAS — Although he says he wasn’t motivated by his individual matchup with All-Star point guard John Wall, Dallas Mavericks rookie Dennis Smith Jr. may have played his most complete game of the season Tuesday night while leading his team to a signature road victory.

Scoring a career-high 22 points on 9-of-22 shooting, Smith grabbed eight boards and dished eight assists to boot while helping to boost the Mavericks (2-10) to a 113-99 victory over the Washington Wizards. The 19-year-old Smith (19 years, 347 days) also became the youngest Mav ever to score 20 points in a game, surpassing the previous record holder in teammate Dirk Nowitzki (20 years, 301 days). In the process, the Mavs captured their first road win of the season and ended a six-game losing skid, extending their winning streak in the nation’s capital to nine victories in a row. The first-year floor general also committed just two turnovers in the win, engineering the Dallas offense nearly to perfection. And according to Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, Smith stepped up his game when his team needed him most.

“Dennis Smith was a great basketball player (Tuesday night). He was great in all areas,” Carlisle said while praising the rookie point guard. “He demonstrated aggression, poise, smarts and leadership, and it’s great to see. He’s worked so hard and it’s obviously been frustrating at times, but to have it come together on the road in really a must-win game with where we’re at is really great to see. Now, he’s just got to duplicate it.”

Opening the game with an alley-oop finish off a lob pass from veteran swingman Wesley Matthews, Smith was in attack mode from the opening tipoff. He then scored nine points and dished out four assists in the opening quarter, lifting the Mavericks to a 36-34 edge after leading by as many as nine in the first period.

Smith reemerged in the stat sheet during the second half, scoring 13 points, grabbing seven boards and handing out three assists in the final 24 minutes of play. And after seeing Smith more than hold his own against Wall, the youngest player on the roster earned the praise of his veteran teammates.

“From the get-go he was in attack mode,” Nowitzki said while praising Smith’s play. “From the jump he was putting pressure on the defense every time down, and he was trying to get in the paint to make something happen. It doesn’t necessarily mean he needs to shoot all the time, but he collapsed the defense, he found some guys on the perimeter for some good shots, and I thought he played a great floor game for us. It was much-needed. We need his energy, his explosiveness and quickness on the break, and he was fantastic for us.”

“It was huge,” leading scorer Harrison Barnes added. “For him to take the challenge (against Wall) — guarding him on the other end and attacking, running our offense and being aggressive — I thought that was huge. And he made big shots.”

Surrendering 23 points and 14 assists to Wall at the other end, Smith went score for score with one of the NBA’s elite point guards for 48 minutes. He also proved that he wasn’t intimidated by matching up with out of the league’s elite players at his position, coming of age while leading the Mavs to a win in a hostile venue on the road. But according to the cat-quick guard, he was simply doing his best to play within the Mavericks’ game plan. And despite his career night, Smith credited Carlisle’s instructions for the win.

“Nobody is going to intimidate me. It’s just playing basketball. John is a really great player and one of the best point guards in the league, but my focus was coming out and being as good as I can for our team,” Smith explained. “You know, we had a really good practice (on Monday), so regardless of who was over there I just tried to lock in for the Mavericks.

“I just know I came out and I did what I was supposed to do. Whatever coach [Carlisle] asked of me, I was trying to do that to the best of my abilities. And it paid off for us.”

Note: The Mavericks will now return to American Airlines Center on Saturday against the Cleveland Cavaliers. 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:

Seth Curry (stress reaction, left tibia) — out
Josh McRoberts (lower extremity injury) — out

Dennis Smith Jr.’s head-to-head matchup with Stephen Curry can serve as learning lesson for Mavs’ rookie point guard

DALLAS — Although it was only first-round draft pick Dennis Smith Jr.’s second professional game with the Dallas Mavericks, according to coach Rick Carlisle and 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki, it will serve as a lesson learned for years to come.

Matching up Monday night against two-time MVP Stephen Curry and the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors, Smith returned to the lineup after missing the previous two games due to left knee effusion. The cat-quick point guard was then immediately thrown into the fire, squaring off head-to-head with a perennial All-Star at his position. And after seeing Curry explode for a game-high 29 points and eight assists to help lead the Warriors (2-2) to a runaway 133-103 victory on the Mavericks’ home floor, Carlisle says Smith learned what he can expect to face on a nightly basis in the NBA.

“Well, there’s a lot of learning that’s going to happen in a very short period of time. And this is as challenging a situation a rookie point guard is going to be put in two games into his career,” Carlisle said after Smith’s 3-of-11 shooting night for 10 points and six rebounds in Monday’s loss. “I mean, this is his second game. I thought he did a lot of good things. Stats aren’t great, but he created a lot of problems at a lot of key points in the game when we were in the game. He’s just going to keep learning, and we’re going to support him.”

Led by Curry’s 7-of-15 shooting, the Warriors’ 55.8 percent from the field as a team bettered the Mavericks’ 39.6 percent for the game. Golden State also finished the night with a 50-42 rebounding edge, overcoming 16 turnovers for 18 Dallas points. More impressively, the Warriors put their foot on the gas in the second half after Smith and the Mavericks (0-4) closed to within three, 65-62, entering the intermission. That said, Nowitzki believes Smith received a crash course on what it will take for the Mavericks to compete with the league’s upper-echelon teams.

“Well, you know, the rookie season is tough, especially if you’re the point guard. There’s a lot of great players out there, and he’s going to have a challenge every night,” Nowitzki admitted. “Hopefully he can stay healthy here, get better from week to week, month to month, learn the rules, learn about some of those players and read the game better. But like I said, the sky is the limit. The kid is only 19, and he’s going to have a great, great future. But the first year is always tough. I don’t care who you are.”

Like Smith, Curry came into the league with a lot of high expectations as the seventh overall pick in the 2009 draft. He’s since lived up to and exceeded those expectations, making three straight All-Star appearances. Curry also became the first player in league history to unanimously win the MVP award during the ’15-16 season. And after leading the Warriors to three straight trips to the NBA Finals while capturing two titles, Smith says Curry has reached heights that he hopes to ascend to during his career.

Watching from afar as the 19-year-old Smith became the youngest player in league history to debut with a double-double in points and assists last Wednesday against Atlanta, Curry also sees Smith coming into his own during the seasons to come. Meanwhile, Curry believes Smith will lead the Mavericks to plenty of team success during his time in Dallas. But with their first head-to-head matchup going the Warriors’ way, Smith says he still has a lot to learn in order to reach Curry’s elite level.

“I mean, he’s a really good player,” Smith respectfully said of Curry. “You know, he’s different. I never guarded him or Klay (Thompson) before. That’s my first time, so I’ve got some adjustments to make. But, you know, I’m learning. … Debatably, he’s the best point guard in the NBA. That’s a goal I’m trying to get to.”

“He’s super athletic. You know, he knows how to play the game, and that’s the thing that’s the most underrated aspect of his game,” Curry said Monday with high praise for Smith. “The way he sees the floor, the way he tries to get his teammates involved, and he can shoot it. A lot of people fall in love with the way that he can high fly and play above the rim at times and just his explosiveness. But the thing that’s going to help him be a long-lasting pro and probably an All-Star one day in this league is that ability to play five-man basketball and get other guys involved, using his strengths to open up looks for other teammates. That’s something that you never know how rookies are going to transition into that mindset, as a point guard especially, and he’s shown he can do that. I’m sure that will continue, and it will only get better.”

Note: The Mavericks will now return to American Airlines Center on Wednesday against the Southwest Division rival Memphis Grizzlies. 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:

Devin Harris (personal reasons) — out
Seth Curry (stress reaction, left tibia) — out
Josh McRoberts (lower extremity injury) — out

2017 Preseason Game 5: Mavs at Hawks

Game Recap: Mavericks 108, Hawks 94

Gian Clavell puts up 19 points off the bench as the Mavericks cruise past the Hawks, 108-94.