Jordan, Smith, Barnes and Barea come up big as Mavs bounce the Clippers, 114-110
In one of the oddest games of the season, Dennis Smith Jr. shook off the impact of a broken tooth Sunday night and returned in time to make the biggest play of the game for the Dallas Mavericks.
Smith’s huge block of a short jumper by Tobias Harris was critical as the Mavs prevailed, 114-110, over the red-hot Los Angeles Clippers before a loud and boisterous sellout crowd of 19,551 at American Airlines Center. It was the seventh straight victory at home for the Mavs and their ninth triumph in their last 12 games.
The win padded the Mavs’ overall record to 11-10 and vaulted them back into the eighth (playoff) spot in the Western Conference.
With the Mavs nursing a two-point lead and tensions running high, the 6-3 Smith found himself one-on-one five feet from the basket against Tobias Harris, who stands 6-9. Unfettered, Smith skied and blocked Harris’ shot, grabbed the defensive rebound, was quickly fouled, and then nailed a pair of free throws with 9.2 seconds left to account for the game’s final points.
In describing his major defensive play on Harris, Smith said: “They thought they had an advantage. They thought.
“Earlier, I had guarded him and he did the same exact move and they called me for a foul, so I just anticipated that he was going to do the same move again, and I got lucky and I was right.”
This game had so many twists and turns going on besides Smith getting his tooth broken. For starters, this was the first time Mavs center DeAndre Jordan ever played against the Clippers, the franchise he spent his entire 10-year career with before signing a one-year free agent contract with Dallas this past July.
Jordan responded with his best game of the year as he finished with 16 points and a season-high 23 rebounds. However, Jordan said there was no added incentive on his part to play against the Clippers.
“It was cool,” he said. “We had a good time. I thought collectively we did a great job.
“We started out a little slow, but then we got stops and we were able to push the pace and I thought our defense picked up and got us some momentum in the second quarter, and then we kind of hung our hats on that throughout the game.”
While Jordan was helping the Mavs to a massive 64-44 advantage on the boards, Smith left the game with 3:10 remaining in the third quarter after taking an inadvertent elbow to the mouth from Patrick Beverley that broke one of his front teeth while the two were on the floor scrambling for a loose ball.
“I saw the tooth flying out as soon as it happened,” Smith said. “It’s just a freak accident.
“I’m sure he didn’t do it on purpose. I’m sure that wasn’t his intentions.”
Smith said Beverley apologized to him. Beverley, however, was ejected from the game with 9:10 left after he tossed the ball and hit a fan sitting in the front row.
“I play within the rules, of course,” Beverley said. “I have never been ejected in my career in the NBA.”
Meanwhile, the Mavs played without two of their best players in starting forward Luka Doncic and backup forward Maxi Kleber. Doncic has a strained right hip and Kleber has a sore right knee, but neither injury is deemed to be serious.
Having to pull the rope a little tighter without Doncic and Kleber, the Mavs went out and received a season-high 30 points from Harrison Barnes and a season-high 24 points from J. J. Barea, who got his nose bloodied late in the game.
“Emotions ran high at times,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “But we got back to center and we kept playing.”
The Clippers (15-7) entered the game with the best record in the Western Conference, the second-best record in the entire NBA, and also were the league’s hottest team over the last 10 games at 9-1. But the short-handed Mavs withstood this physical challenge headed into Tuesday’s home game against Portland.