Here are my 5 takeaways from the Dallas Mavericks’ 114-112 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night at the Smoothie King Arena:
1. SMITH SOLID IN HIS RETURN: After missing 10 of the previous 11 games with a sprained right wrist, Dennis Smith Jr. showed no outwardly ill effects of the injury. Especially when he drove down the lane and threw down a vicious dunk over Julius Randle. Smith played 30 minutes Friday, scored 14 points, handed out four assists, picked up two steals, and was 5-of-9 from the field and 2-of-4 from 3-point land. Also, Smith’s +6 plus-minus was better than any of the 22 players who played except for Solomon Hill (+13) and Randle (+12) of the Pelicans. Yet, Smith knows he had to find a way to get that last shot off before time expired.
2. LUKA LARGE AND IN CHARGE: This is beginning to sound a bit familiar. Luka Doncic suits up and shows another opponent that he is absolutely no ordinary rookie. Not only did Doncic score a career-high 34 points, but he did it on only 16 shots. You need to understand that an excellent scoring total to shot attempt is, in this case, Doncic taking 22 shots just to get to 33 points. Doncic was 10-of-16 from the field, including 7-of-10 from downtown. He became the youngest player in NBA history to make seven threes in a game. Still, Doncic knows he can’t miss six free throws in a game again. But opponents also know this kid can flat-out ball.
3. DEANDRE GOBBLING UP REBOUNDS: It’s becoming as routine as he sun rising in the East and setting in the West. Like a magnet, DeAndre Jordan is attracted to rebounds. Friday night the 11-year veteran finished with 15 boards. It’s the ninth straight time in which Jordan has collected at least 10 rebounds in a game, and the 30th time he’s done that this season. How phenomenal is that? I’m glad you asked. As a team last year, Mavs players combined to grab 10 or more rebounds in a game just 43 times, led by Dwight Powell (11) and Harrison Barnes (10). The franchise record – 56 by James Donaldson during the 1986-’87 season — is well without Jordan’s reach.
4. DIRK FOUND HIS RHYTHM: It may or may not have been Dirk Nowitzki’s last game in New Orleans. But the big fella sure gave folks in the Big Easy a treat. Nowitzki opened the second quarter in, well, Nowitzki-like fashion as he drilled an 18-footer and promptly followed that up with a nasty 3-pointer — all in just 50 seconds. That forced New Orleans to call a quick timeout so Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry could perhaps remind his players that Nowitzki may be 40 years old, but he still can shoot with the best of them. Nowitzki finished the game with a season-high 11 points in 11 minutes, and made 4-of-7 baskets.
5. DAVIS IS SUPER HUMAN: I’m not really sure how you defend Anthony Davis. No matter what defense the MVP candidate sees, he dissects it, rips it apart and winds up with some video numbers by the time the game is over. It’s a classic case of a superstar player being able to do whatever he wants regardless of what defensive scheme is drawn up to slow him down. If you double Davis, he’ll find an open 3-point shooter. If you go mano y mano against him, good luck with that. Davis poured in 48 points, pulled down 17 rebounds, dispensed four assists, recorded two steals and blocked two shots on Friday.