Mavericks: Smith Jr, Noel shine in Mavs season opener

DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 18: Dennis Smith Jr.
DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 18: Dennis Smith Jr. /

The Dallas Mavericks received plenty of help from rookie Dennis Smith Jr. and Nerlens Noel, but it wasn’t enough to take down Atlanta in the season opener.

Dennis Smith Jr. and Nerlens Noel were the bright spots for the Dallas Mavericks in their 117-111 season-opening loss to the Hawks. The Mavs seemed outmatched for much of the game, but the two-headed monster that is the face of the youth movement in Dallas played exceptionally well.

Smith Jr. got his first career points on the Mavs’ opening possession, showing off the athleticism with an alley-oop slam. The next time down the court, he knocked down a 12-foot floater. The third trip down, he assisted on a Dirk Nowitzki triple.

Those first three possessions showcased DSJ’s potential, and he didn’t stop there. By the end of the game, the rookie point guard amassed 16 points and 10 assists on 50 percent shooting. Smith Jr.’s performance was more than impressive, as he became the youngest player in NBA history to record a points-assists double-double.

Nerlens Noel put in work down low, scoring 16 points (6-6, 4-4 FT) and grabbing 11 rebounds in just 20 minutes of action. He also had 3 blocks and the highest plus-minus (+9) on the team.

Dallas found themselves down 11 at the half, but rallied back and stayed with Atlanta the rest of the way. Despite that, rebounding was a big issue. The Hawks grabbed enough boards to keep the upper hand down the stretch. They eventually iced the game at the free throw line.

Support on the wing

With Seth Curry out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his leg, the Mavs are relying heavily on Wesley Matthews to produce on the wings. At first he didn’t impress, missing his first four shots. Thankfully, he somewhat found his groove and finished the game shooting 5-of-9 from behind the arc.

Matthews’ 15 points were backed up with 8 rebounds and 5 assists. However, he also turned the ball over 5 times. If Dallas wants to be competitive from the perimeter, they need consistent production like they got last night from Yogi Ferrell (3-4 3PT), J.J. Barea (13 points and 5 assists), and Devin Harris (10 points).

Reasons for concern

Harrison Barnes is supposed to be the primary scoring option for Dallas. His shooting (3-13 FG, 0-6 3PT) left much to be desired. If he can’t get it done, more pressure will be put on Smith Jr. to produce, which is the opposite of what the Mavs want.

DSJ is still getting used to playing at the NBA level, so it’s not surprising to see him attack every play with the mentality that he can out-jump everyone else on the court. However, that mindset sometimes results in plays like this:

If the youngster keeps it up, he’ll find himself coming down with injuries.

Dirk is now in his 20th NBA season, and it showed vs Atlanta. The future hall of famer managed 10 points on a rough 4-of-14 shooting. He also had the worst plus-minus (-18) of any Maverick.

Next: Is Dennis Smith Jr the Next Russell Westbrook?

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What does this mean? Exactly this: the Mavs are changing their pace of play, and it does not favor the Big German. Consequently, Nowitzki did not play during the back half of the fourth quarter.

Dallas hosts Sacramento on Friday in a battle of rookie point guards.