Final: Mavs 99, Hornets 93
Sometimes things happen in this league that you do not expect. Tonight, Dallas reportedly agreed to a trade with Sacramento involving Harrison Barnes — during the game. Barnes spent the fourth quarter cheering his teammates on from the bench, seemingly aware of the situation. After the game, Rick Carlisle and the entire roster had nothing but good things to say about him, and that’s because Harrison Barnes is a very good basketball player and an incredible person. I wish him the very best in the future, even though he’s now joining a team competing directly with Dallas in the Western Conference standings. Some things are bigger than basketball, and many of Barnes’ greatest accomplishments in this city had nothing to do with shooting hoops, but with helping kids and families in the community. He’s just a great person.
Luka Doncic recorded his third career triple-double, once again moving the goalpost when it comes to our expectations. Doncic shot just 5 of 20 from the field, yet he contributed a team-high 19 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists (against just three turnovers). Among active players, Doncic now leads the Mavericks in points, rebounds, and assists per game. It’s likely to stay that way for the rest of the season, barring some unforeseen circumstance. He’s unbelievable. Even when his shot isn’t falling, he’s still able to positively affect the game in so many ways that you almost forget what his percentage is. He also hit 7 of 9 free throws, continuing his progress in that area; in his last seven games, he’s hit 75 percent of his free throws on more than seven attempts per game. He’s progressing in every single way imaginable, and even in the wake of the trade with New York as his involvement in the offense has skyrocketed to extreme levels, he’s matched the responsibility with production. Might as well hand him Rookie of the Year right now, because it won’t be long before we debate whether he belongs on even more distinguished award lists.
Dorian Finney-Smith has seen his role and minutes increase significantly recently, especially following the trade with New York. Tonight he had one of the finest games of his career both in terms of production and impact, going for 15 points and 10 boards. He shot 7 of 11 from the field, with four of his makes coming as dunks.
Finney-Smith has a rare combination of pure athleticism but also exceptional rebounding instincts, which makes him a potent player on the glass. He’s scored 61 points on put-backs this season, per Synergy, which is more than double any other player still on the roster. (The departed DeAndre Jordan had scored 102.) Add to his rebounding skills a still-improving jump shot and some terrific perimeter defense, and you’ve got yourself quite the player. His development has been such a win both for him and the Mavericks, to the point that it’s almost hard to believe no team saw enough in him to draft him in 2016. Before the season, Rick Carlisle said he believes Finney-Smith would be a top-10 or -15 player if you were to redo to the 2016 Draft. He might just be right.
The Mavs (25-28) host the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks on Friday. Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m.