Here are my 5 takeaways from the Dallas Mavericks’ 113-104 loss to the Utah Jazz on Sunday night at American Airlines Center:
1. TIME NEEDED FOR THE STARTERS: OK, the Mavs finally got their projected starting lineup for this season together on the court for the first time this season. But you know how these things are. It takes time to get that unique chemistry on one accord. Buildings aren’t built in a day, and neither are basketball teams. In due time, Harrison Barnes, Dennis Smith Jr., Luka Doncic, DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews will all be on the same page and it’ll be a beautiful thing to see. Until then, “patience’ is the operative word for this quintet.
2. JORDAN CONTINUES TO AMAZE: DeAndre Jordan showed a side of him you didn’t know existed. Well, actually he showed you two sides. Jordan posted a career-high nine assists against Utah and wound up just one assist shy of registering his first career triple-double. He also collected his sixth straight double-double (12 points, 19 rebounds). Now you see why the Mavs wanted this dude three years ago. In addition, Jordan went 4-of-4 from the free throw line and leads the Mavs in free throw shooting at 86.7 percent (26 of 30). Maybe he should be shooting the technical free throws.
3. DENNIS SMITH JR. IS BACK: One game after sitting out Friday’s contest in Toronto with a sprained right ankle, Dennis Smith Jr. showed why he is one the best young point guards in the NBA. Smith darted inside for dunks and layups, stayed on the perimeter for dead-eye long-range shots, and kept pushing the ball up the floor and putting pressure on Utah’s defense. In the third quarter alone Smith scored 16 points on 7-of-7 shots and 2-of-2 hoops from 3-point land. He finished the game converting 12-of-19 field goals (3-of-4 3-pointers) with a career-high tying 27 points and two blocks.
4. ANOTHER SLOW START: Yet another slow start hamstrung the Mavs. This time the Mavs fell behind the Jazz, 16-6, with 5:19 remaining in the first quarter as the Mavs misfired on 10 of their first 12 shots. But like DeAndre Jordan said after the game, even if the Mavs are missing shots, they can do something about it at the other end by playing better defense. That will keep the opponent nearby until the offense finds itself. That happened in spurts against the Jazz, but not enough as Utah shot 52.5 percent from the field and converted 10 of 25 shots from beyond the 3-point arc.
5. KLEBER CONTINUES TO SHINE: Maxi Kleber continues to do a lot more with less. The second-year forward scored 11 points and grabbed three rebounds against the Jazz while playing only 13 minutes off the bench. It’s the third time this season Kleber has scored at least 11 points in a game as he’s proven to be one of the Mavs’ more reliable scorers. Overall, Kleber is averaging 9.2 points and 4.3 rebounds and shooting 54.3 percent from the field and a team-high 47.6 percent (10-of-21) from 3-point range in just 20 minutes per game.