ATLANTA — After leaning on the play of their first-year point guard to improve to 3-1 in the preseason with a 99-96 home win Monday over Orlando, the Dallas Mavericks will try to keep progressing Thursday in Atlanta as the regular season draws closer.
Led by rookie Dennis Smith Jr.’s 16 points on 7-of-15 shooting, six rebounds and seven assists, the Mavericks held off the Magic late to escape with a win on their home floor. The Mavs will now try to find similar success on the road, traveling to Atlanta to begin a back-to-back that concludes Friday in Charlotte. And with the Hawks (2-2) scheduled to invade American Airlines Center for the regular-season opener next Wednesday, the Mavericks will attempt to send a message before the two teams square off in a meaningful game.
“Well, we want to keep getting in better condition. We want to play better, and we’re trying to get chemistry,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle explained.
“We’re doing OK, but we’ve just got to keep progressing,” the coach added. “Our conditioning is doing fine. We just want to keep getting better. You know, we had a hard practice (Wednesday), and these last two games we’ve got to go hard. It’s a big physical commitment to play a running style, so you’ve got to be in great condition and you’ve got to be conditioned mentality also to maintain that kind of tempo. It’s not easy. A lot of players say, ‘I want to run, and I want to be on a running team.’ But then you get into training camp and you find out what it’s all about, and it’s like, ‘I’m not sure I want to sign up for this.’ But our guys have been good, and I think they understand that we’re set up to be more of a tempo team this year.”
Filling up the stat sheet in his last exhibition outing, Smith will also try to continue his progression individually.
This preseason, Smith is averaging 11.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.3 steals per outing to overshadow his 2.3 turnovers a game. He’s also shooting 40.5 percent from the field and 41.2 percent from three-point range through four games. But after arguably his best performance, Smith admits that he will face the challenge of continuing to get better Thursday night. With that said, the 19-year-old hopes to rely on the tutelage of Carlisle and the Mavericks’ veteran players.
“Statistically and just overall period, I think that is my best overall game,” Smith said while summing up Monday’s performance. “We came out with the win and I got guys involved, and that’s very important for me to do. So, I think I did a pretty good job of that. You know, I’m making strides every game, and I’m looking forward to keep doing that all season.”
Note: The Mavericks will now travel to Atlanta for Thursday’s matchup against the Hawks. The game will tip off at 6:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest Plus and 103.3 FM ESPN. The game will also air in Spanish on KFLC AM 1270.
The Mavs return to American Airlines Center on Oct. 18 for the regular-season opener against the Atlanta Hawks. That game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest and 103.3 FM ESPN. The game will also air in Spanish on KFLC AM 1270. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting Mavs.com, or by calling (214) 747-MAVS.
Seth Curry (stress reaction, left tibia) — not with the team
Josh McRoberts (rest) — not with the team