Here are my 5 takeaways from the Dallas Mavericks’ 114-110 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday night at American Airlines Center:
1. MAVS SUNK THEIR TEETH IN THIS VICTORY. This was yet another win that the Mavs could sink their teeth into. The Clippers entered the fray armed not only with the best record in the Western Conference, but they also had the second-best record in the entire NBA and were the league’s hottest team with victories in nine of their previous 10 games. The win proved again that the Mavs – they outrebounded the Clippers, 64-44 — can indeed hold their ground against the best teams the West has to offer. And that’s a good thing considering the Mavs play 52 games against the West. The loss dropped the Clippers to the No. 2 seed out West. Coupled with the Mavs’ earlier wins over the Oklahoma City Thunder and Golden State Warriors, the Mavs now own victories over teams currently seeded Nos. 2-4 out West.
2. SMITH LOSES A TOOTH: Dennis Smith Jr. lost a tooth in this game, but kept on ticking. Patrick Beverley inadvertently elbowed Smith in the mouth in the third quarter, fracturing one of his front teeth, which made its way to the floor. Smith casually picked up the tooth, returned to the game early in the fourth quarter and ended up producing the game’s biggest defensive play. With the Mavs up by two points and despite Tobias Harris being six inches taller than him, Smith found himself matched up one-on-one on Harris with 12 seconds remaining. No problem. Smith blocked Harris’ shot, grabbed the rebound, was fouled, and was smiling after he sealed the game with a pair of free throws with 9.2 seconds left. By the way, Smith’s tooth was back in place by the time the media made it to the locker room after the game.
3. DEANDRE CONTROLLED THE BOARDS: If you didn’t know before, perhaps now you know why the Mavs were so persistent about obtaining DeAndre Jordan during free agency in the summer of 2015. And why they were so persistent about obtaining him – again—when he became a free agent again this past summer after he turned them down in 2015. Jordan is a proto-typical robo-rebounder who sleeps, eats and drinks rebounds. And anyone who gets in his way when he’s chasing boards needs to really be careful. Such was the case Sunday when Jordan pulled down a season-high 23 rebounds in his first game against his former team. It’s the most rebounds by Jordan since he pulled down 23 boards against Cleveland on Mar. 9 of last season. And for good measure on Sunday, Jordan also tallied 16 points.
4. NO LUKA, NO PROBLEM: When word circulated less than two hours before Sunday’s tipoff that the Mavs would be facing the Western Conference’s best team without rookie forward Luka Doncic, it was as if a dark cloud was hanging over American Airlines Center. After all, Doncic is the Mavs’ leading scorer and second-leading rebounder and assist maker. In his first 20 NBA contests, the talented teenager produced 10 games where he scored 20 or more points. However, Doncic was sidelined against the Clippers with a strained right hip, which isn’t considered serious. But J. J. Barea (24 points, five rebounds), Dorian Finney-Smith (10 points, seven rebounds, two steals) and Dennis Smith Jr. (nine points, five assists, two steals, two blocks) more than picked up the slack in Doncic’s absence.
5. MR. RELIABLE STRIKES AGAIN: Remember Harrison Barnes? I’m sure you do. He’s the guy who led this team in scoring the last two years. Well, he’s bbbaaaccckkk!!! As he is so apt to do, Barnes is on a bucket-getting tour. The seven-year veteran made 11 field goals and scored a season-high 30 points against the Clippers. That performance came only one game after Barnes converted nine field goals and poured in a season-high 29 points against the Los Angeles Lakers. And that performance came just three games after Barnes made 10 field goals and tallied a season-high 28 points against Brooklyn. In all, Barnes has manufactured six 20-point-plus games over the last nine contests. And he scored 15 of his points on Sunday in the first quarter. The Mavs are 5-1 this season when Barnes tallies 20 or more points in a game.