Dennis Smith Jr. Explains His Incredible Game-Winner

Dennis Smith Jr. delivered the key bucket that led the Mavs to a victory in their home opener. He explains what gave him the confidence to take that shot and the rest of his 19-point night.

Final: Mavs 140, Wolves 136

  • If you like the Kansas City Chiefs, you’ll probably enjoy Mavs (and NBA) basketball this season. Dallas scored 140 points against Minnesota tonight, tying for the most points the club has scored in regulation since before Dirk Nowitzki entered the NBA. Similarly, the 136 points the Mavs allowed tied for the most in regulation since the day after Christmas in 1994. This was a wild game. No other way to put it. The Wolves poured in an opponent-record 46 first-quarter points, and the Mavs answered with 43 in the final frame, their most in a fourth quarter in nearly 10 years. Nineteen of the 20 players who appeared in the game scored, and 18 of those players scored at least five points. Nine players scored at least 19 points apiece. Points for everyone.

  • That isn’t to say, however, that no defense was played. The Mavericks blocked eight shots, with DeAndre Jordan leading the way by swatting five. One play in particular stood out to me. Watch as Jordan sticks with the ball-handler and swats the shot, and then recovers in time to grab the rebound off the follow-up.

    This is the type of possession that, despite the Mavs’ very good defensive rebound percentage, would too often have resulted in two (or more) points for the opponent last season. Dallas was a top-10 defensive rebound percentage team last season, but it seemed like if an opponent got one offensive rebound, they were going to score no matter what. Jordan represents a shift in that idea because he has quick second hops and doesn’t give up on the play. Sure, the Wolves could have scored a put-back lay-in, but the shot rimmed out. Typically Taj Gibson or someone else may have pulled down a board and earned another opportunity, but Jordan ended the possession then and there. He followed it up shortly after with another authoritative rebound.

    Jordan’s third quarter stat line impresses (eight points, four blocks, two rebounds) but it doesn’t quite capture how physically dominant he was in the frame. He brings a unique brand of imposing toughness and athleticism that they’ve been missing in the middle since the Tyson Chandler days.

  • Luka Doncic had himself a night, becoming the youngest player in Mavs history to break the 20-point mark in a game. He finished with 26 points on 16 shots, overcoming a scoreless first quarter to lead the team in scoring. His most highlight-worthy play came in the third quarter, when he hit a step-back 3 to put Dallas up six.

    His most significant work, though, came in the fourth quarter, when a couple late buckets helped Dallas fend off a frenzied, Towns-led Wolves push to cut the lead down to one point. Doncic turned it over six times compared to just three assists, yet many of those giveaways are correctable mistakes, and seeing as it was only his second NBA game, I think it’s fair to give him a little time before we start expecting 25-plus points and a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

  • Dennis Smith Jr. hit what might have been the biggest shot of his career tonight, a tough step-back and-1 jumper over Derrick Rose, to whom he was often compared coming out of NC State.

    Smith scored 19 points, which in a game like this comes across as a quiet night. But he took over the fourth quarter, scoring 10 points, adding four assists, and finishing a team-best +7. He shot 6 of 8 on 2-pointers, finishing a couple difficult shots at the rim in the process and even earning five free throws, though most of them came in the waning seconds of the game. Still, Smith played with purpose and poise in the fourth quarter in this game. Offense still flows through the point guard, even in today’s versatile playmaking NBA. When Smith is as effective as he was down the stretch, he alone can lift all the other boats right up with him.

  • J.J. Barea has finished with double-digit assists and Dwight Powell has scored at least 16 points in both games now. Those two are something else. Not much else to say here, honestly. Those guys are good. Never discount the value of a good backup point guard.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (1-1) will face the Chicago Bulls on Monday at American Airlines Center. Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m.

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