Here are my 5 takeaways from the Dallas Mavericks’ 113-108 overtime loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Monday night at the AT&T Center:
1. JUST IN CASE YOU DIDN’T KNOW, DONCIC IS FOR REAL: For those of you who were still casting doubt about Luka Doncic, it’s time to get off that fence before you wound up missing out on a really good show. The rookie from Slovenia is the real deal, and he keeps proving it on a game-by-game basis. Doncic poured in a career-high 31 points against the Spurs on 11-of-18 shots and 4-of-6 baskets from 3-point land. Doncic’s top three scoring games have been against the Spurs, Minnesota (26 points) and Toronto (22 points) – three teams that advanced to last season’s playoffs. In other words, the bigger the stage, the bigger he plays.
2. HARRISON BARNES IS BACK: It took just three games for Harrison Barnes to find his shooting stroke. The seven-year veteran forward was 8-of-14 from the field and 2-of-5 from 3-point territory on Monday in looking like his old self again. Barnes finished the game with 18 points and seven rebounds in 34 minutes. That was a welcomed sight for Mavs’ fans to see after Barnes struggled while scoring just seven points on 3-of-13 shooting in 34 minutes on Sunday night against Utah. And the fact that Barnes was able to be so effective on the road in a hostile environment on the second night of a back-to-back speaks to where his game is at this moment.
3. SMITH STRINGING SOLID GAMES TOGETHER: For the second game in a row, Dennis Smith Jr. eclipsed the 20-point scoring mark. After scoring a career-high tying 27 points on 12-of-19 shots Sunday night against Utah, Smith followed that up with 22 points on 9-of-18 shots against San Antonio. The 49 points are the most Smith has ever scored during a two-game span, and it’s just the fourth time he’s tallied at least 20 points in consecutive games. Smith was attacking the basket at will and also found open creases on the perimeter. His only qualm: He’d like to have that second free throw back he missed with 2.5 seconds left in regulation that would have put the Mavs up by one point against the Spurs.
4. MAVS CAN ALSO PLAY THE GRIND GAME: Most NBA teams like to fly up and down the court and jack up a lot of 3-pointers and live with the impending results. Not the San Antonio Spurs. Actually, the Mavs play the fast-paced game where 3-pointers are filling the airways. But they also showed Monday they can be effective against a team like the Spurs that slows the pace a bit. The Spurs attempted just 20 shots from behind the 3-point line, which is a low for a Mavs opponent this season. The 102 points the Mavs gave up in regulation were the fewest they’ve allowed in 48 minutes this season.
5. IN THE AIR AGAIN: This may or may not be an issue, but after landing in Los Angeles at 12:21 a.m. on Tuesday morning, the Mavs had officially been flying in an airplane for eight consecutive days. I’m no pilot, but that’s not normal. That also has to do a number on a player’s body and mind. Some things the body wasn’t meant to do. Flying on an airplane for eight straight days is probably near the top of that list. Of course, the NBA schedule is what it is. But coming off that nine-day trip to China earlier this month for a couple of meaningless preseason games, this is a difficult period for the Mavs.