Here are my 5 takeaways from the Dallas Mavericks’ 118-106 loss to the New York Knicks on Friday night at American Airlines Center:
1. THE DEFENSE MUST IMPROVE: Coach Rick Carlisle has repeatedly pointed out that his defense must improve and that he’s not as much concerned about the offense as he is about the Mavs’ defense, which was a priority during training camp. On Friday the Knicks were 25-of-49 from the field for 51 percent and scored 56 points in the first half. And they were 21-of-35 from the field for 60 percent and scored 62 points in the second half. Overall, the Knicks shot 54.8 percent from the field. It’s difficult to win in any league if an opponent shoots that high from the field.
2. FINNEY-SMITH HAD A CAREER NIGHT: Dorian Finney-Smith had arguably his best game as an NBA player. The third-year forward out of Florida scored a career-high 19 points in 27 minutes, was 8-of-10 from the field and converted both of his two 3-point attempts. An undrafted free agent in 2016, Finney-Smith also grabbed a season-high tying seven rebounds – five on the offensive side of the court — handed out two assists and picked up a pair of steals. The contributions by Finney-Smith were meaningful, particularly since he scored half of the 38 points the Mavs got from their bench.
3. TURNOVER NUMBERS ARE WAY TOO HIGH: The Mavs were extremely careless with the basketball against the Knicks. Dallas turned the ball over 19 times, leading to 18 points by New York. It’s the third straight game in which the Mavs have turned the ball over at least 19 times. The Mavs turned it over 23 times at San Antonio last Monday and 20 times at the Los Angeles Lakers this past Wednesday. Overall, the Mavs have turned the ball over at least 19 times in three games this season. To put that in perspective, the Mavs only turned the ball over 19 or more times in just three games last season.
4. DONCIC CONTINUES TO SPARKLE: Rookie Luka Doncic flirted with a triple-double as he finished with 18 points, a career-high tying nine rebounds and six assists. Doncic was 8-of-15 from the field in 35 minutes, despite going scoreless in the first quarter for the second straight game. Overall, Doncic is averaging a team-high 19.4 ppg and is second on the team in rebounds (6.6 rpg) and assists (4.6 apg). Oscar Robertson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, Elgin Baylor, Sidney Wicks and Larry Bird are the only rookies to finish a season averaging at least 20 ppg, 6 rpg and 4 apg.
5. SMITH BOUNCES BACK: Dennis Smith Jr. bounced back against the Knicks to tally a game-high tying 23 points in just 32 minutes. Smith was 8-of-14 from the field and 2-of-4 from beyond the 3-point arc as his offense helped open up the floor. The scoring by Smith was much needed after he scored a season-low five points in Wednesday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers. Ironically, that Laker game came on the heels of Smith scoring a career-high tying 27 points last Sunday against Utah and 22 points last Monday at San Antonio. The combined 49 points are the most Smith has ever scored in two straight games.