DALLAS — It was supposed to be the beginning of the Dallas Mavericks’ home-court dominance this season, hosting an upstart Atlanta Hawks team in the first matchup of the grueling 82-game schedule. However, after suffering a hard-fought 117-111 loss on their home floor Wednesday night, the Mavericks (0-1) were admittedly left scratching their heads as they exited the court.
Beginning the ’17-18 season with back-to-back home games, the Mavs hoped to establish an advantage at American Airlines Center after going just 21-20 on their own court last year. The Mavericks also believed they could begin the season with a dominance performance in front of their fans after going 33-49 last season and missing the playoffs. Instead, the Mavericks would come up short after rallying back from a double-digit deficit in the first half. And despite an impressive showing from first-round draft pick Dennis Smith Jr. to become the youngest player to record a double-double with points and assists in his debut game, the Mavs know they’ll need to bounce back Friday night against the Sacramento Kings.
“I gave 100 percent effort and we didn’t win, so we’re looking forward to the game Friday and getting our first win of the season,” the 19-year-old Smith said after scoring 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting, grabbing three rebounds and dishing 10 assists during Wednesday’s loss. “Rebounding, I didn’t contribute enough, and that was a focal point coming into the game. I didn’t do my part on that, so we’ll watch film and we look to bounce back Friday.
“We’ve got each other’s backs,” he added. “You know, even with a loss, we stuck together like we were supposed to, and nobody was pointing fingers. And like I said, we’re a team that’s ready to bounce back from any loss.”
Shouldering the bulk of the scoring load in his first game, Smith would see the Mavs’ top scorers from last season — versatile forward Harrison Barnes and 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki — combine for just 7-of-27 shooting from the field. Meanwhile, the Mavericks were outscored by 18 when Nowitzki was on the floor, leading the ageless superstar to take responsibility for the loss. However, after watching the Mavericks rally to tie the score at 111-all on Barnes’ fast-break score with 1:13 left to play, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle attributed the defeat to fatigue after working to erase the first-half deficit.
Led by point guard Dennis Schroder’s 16 first-half points on 7-of-16 shooting, the Hawks outshot the Mavericks through two quarters, 49 percent to 34.1 percent, while building a 58-47 advantage on the scoreboard. The Hawks also held a 31-22 rebounding advantage at the halftime intermission, forcing the Mavs into seven turnovers in the first 24 minutes of play. All told, the Hawks outshot the Mavericks for the game, 51.1 percent to 44.2 percent, ending the night with a 50-41 rebounding advantage. And after seeing the visiting Hawks convert Dallas’ 16 turnovers into 19 points, Carlisle and Nowitzki agreed that the Mavericks will need to put together a better performance for 48 minutes Friday night.
“We got ourselves in too big a hole,” Carlisle explained. “You know, an 11-point halftime deficit at home in the first game is just one of those things. It’s not easy to dig out. You spend a lot of energy digging out of a hole, and then getting over the hump becomes even more difficult. … The thing I can’t live with is the fact that we didn’t do a good job in the effort areas. That’s on me. I didn’t have these guys prepared enough to play.”
“That was a tough loss. We’ve got to find a way to win that one at home,” Nowitzki admitted after scoring 10 points during a 4-of-14 shooting performance. “I felt like every time we were right there, we made a mistake or a bad turnover, gave up an offensive rebound or had a shot-clock violation. Just every time we were right there, we just couldn’t get over the hump. You just can’t give up layups like that in the fourth. I think Schroder did a great job driving, but somebody has got to be there. Somehow you’ve got to make him beat you over the top and not just lay the ball in. So, we made a couple of mistakes, and we paid for it.”
Note: The Mavericks will now return to American Airlines Center on Friday against the Sacramento Kings. The 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) — out
Josh McRoberts (lower extremity injury) — out
Gian Clavell (G-League) — not with the team
Johnathan Motley (G-League) — not with the team