Final: Mavs 122, Hornets 84
The Mavs’ struggles on the road this season are well-documented; we do not need to review them in this space. For all of those reasons, this one had to feel pretty good for the Mavericks. It was nearly a wire-to-wire win for the Mavericks, who trailed 16-12 at one point before launching an extended blitz which stretched well into the second quarter. Dallas scored 42 points in the opening frame behind a franchise-record 10 3-pointers, which tied for the most points the team has scored in any first quarter this season. The only other occasion: 42 at Atlanta, the last time the Mavs really got off to a good start away from home — and I don’t want to revisit the result of that game. This one had to feel a bit like redemption for Dallas in that regard, and it had to feel pretty good to just play a good game on the road. The Mavericks were never going to go 2-39 on the road, but they had to get win No. 3 somehow. Sometimes it’s better to skip knocking and just blast your way through the door.
This was a homecoming game for Dennis Smith Jr., who hails from nearby Fayetteville. Smith played like he had something to prove — or family and friends to impress — from the opening tip, scoring 10 points and handing out three assists in the first quarter alone.
Smith finished with 18 points and seven assists in 22 minutes, and he knocked down three 3-pointers. This was one of his more active performances of the season, tacking on three steals and playing some impressive defense on Charlotte star Kemba Walker in addition to his typical drive-and-kick game. He certainly didn’t disappoint in his return home.
The Mavericks are now 4-0 when they score at least 122 points. They’re 5-2 when they allow fewer than 100 points, and 3-0 when they allow fewer than 90. We as fans and observers pay a whole lot of attention to offense and not nearly enough to defense, but the Mavericks are one of just two teams in the NBA to hold their opponents below 85 points in three games. We know what the other, Oklahoma City, is capable of defensively after having seen it up-close for two nights. Dallas might not have achieved the season-long dominance that OKC has put on display, but three times now we have seen the Mavericks piece together that type of effort. No other team can make that claim. Suddenly, Friday night’s game in Boston is looking like it could be quite a defensive battle, as Boston ranks fourth in defensive efficiency and Dallas — even after Monday’s game in OKC — ranks 12th.
Dallas matched its season-high in assists (31) while committing just 10 turnovers, which ties for the second-fewest the team has finished with in any game this season. After giving it away 53 times in two games against OKC earlier this week, the Mavs made it a point to say the turnovers had to stop. You might trick yourself into thinking that could mean assists would go down, but in fact the opposite happened. The passes were crisp and on target, the ball was flying around the horn on nearly every possession in the first half, and most importantly the shots were falling. It resulted in one of the more aesthetically pleasing offensive showings we’ve seen from this team and the fourth-largest road win in franchise history.
The Mavs (18-19) are shippin’ up to Boston for a meeting with the Celtics. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.