Dennis Smith Jr. had a roller coaster of a night in the fourth quarter. During one stretch, the rookie was blocked by LeBron James at the rim and then had a breakaway dunk about 10 seconds later after a Cavs turnover. Later, down four points and with the Mavs in need of a quick bucket, Smith drove the lane and went up for a right-handed reverse layup instead of a left-handed one and unfortunately it rimmed out. You have to wonder if Smith was anticipating James swooping in for one of his patented chase-down blocks. But generally Smith was phenomenal again, finishing with 21 points, seven assists (against only one turnover), five rebounds, two steals, and two blocks. He showed a few different flashes of special, special stuff
Harrison Barnes had another nice night from the field. As you’ll read in the next point, there were some weird matchups in this game. How did it affect Barnes? With LeBron James basically starting at point guard and the Cavs basically not playing anyone under 6-foot-5, there were no smalls on the floor for Barnes to attack in the post the way he’s done in his last few games. That meant he had to work a little harder for his looks against longer, more athletic wings, but he was still able to find his spots and have another 20-plus-point game. The Mavs will need him to stay aggressive like that no matter who’s matched up on him.
This was a bit of a weird matchup in the new small-ball NBA. Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Love were your starting centers. What’s interesting about that is both teams start those guys at the 5 in order to space the floor, but because both guys do a lot of the same things and are a similar size, it’s almost not an advantage for either team. For example, any time Dirk goes up against a big man who likes to bang on the block, it usually gives the Mavs an advantage because those guys aren’t used to defending 30 feet away from the rim. But Love and Nowitzki are both power forwards by trade, so they’re used to it. That’s going to be an interesting thing to watch the rest of this season as the Mavs will likely go up against more teams who roll out smaller lineups.
The Mavs (2-11) will play the Oklahoma City Thunder (5-7) on Sunday at Chesapeake Energy Arena at 6 p.m. Central.
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