Here are my 5 takeaways from the Dallas Mavericks’ 106-98 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night at American Airlines Center:
1. DENNIS IS BACK — WITH AUTHORITY: After missing six games with an illness and tightness in the middle of his back, Smith returned with authority on Tuesday and really put on a show. In helping the Mavs increase what had become a slow tempo in recent games, Smith was zipping up and down the court all night and wound up with 17 points, a season-high tying eight rebounds and four assists in a team-high 37 minutes. Smith was tossing alley-oops dunk passes to DeAndre Jordan, darting inside for breath-taking scoop shots, and was really just being a menace to the Clippers all night long.
2. JORDAN OWNS THE CLIPPERS: Officially, Steve Ballmer owns the Clippers. But that hasn’t stopped DeAndre Jordan from playing like he “owns” part of that Hollywood franchise. On Tuesday, in one of his most impressive all-around performances of the season, Jordan poured in 13 points, grabbed 16 rebounds, handed out four assists and blocked four shots against the Clippers. That means in three games against the Clippers – the team he spent the first 10 years playing for – this season, Jordan has racked up a whopping 64 rebounds.
3. BARNES TWO-WAY THREAT: This is one of those games Harrison Barnes should truly treasure, because it was one of his best overall performances of the year. Not only did Barnes score a game-high 20 points on an assortment of shots, but he also was a major pest to the Clippers on defense. In particular, Clippers forward Tobias Harris entered the game averaging 21 points per contest. That total got lowered a bit because Barnes held Harris to just nine points on 1-of-9 shooting. And six of those points came from the free throw line.
4. DEVIN IS A VALUABLE RESERVE: Once again, Devin Harris proved why he remains a valuable commodity after playing 15 seasons. The dude can still ball. When Harris isn’t setting charges, he can still shoot with the best of them. Against the Clippers, Harris, who turns 36 next month, tallied 13 points and distributed three assists. The Milwaukee native was 5-of-8 from the field, and also scored the 800th 3-pointer of his career. Those five field goals are the most by Harris since he went 5-of-11 from the field on Dec. 20, ironically in a game also against the Clippers.
5. MUST-WIN SITUATION: They’ll probably never admit it, but Tuesday’s game was a must-win situation for the Mavs. Why? Because the Mavs entered the contest with a four-game losing streak, and they needed to stem the tide before playing Detroit and Toronto this weekend in the final two games of this three-game home stand. The Mavs had a pair of six-game losing streaks earlier this season. But with 21 assists, a 48-41 rebounding advantage, a 44-32 edge on points in the paint, the Mavs were able to win for the first time this season against seven losses in games played on the last end of a back-to-back.