ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Dallas Mavericks rookie Dennis Smith Jr. has the talent and physical tools to become a standout in the NBA.
But right now, it’s about incremental improvement for the point guard selected No. 9 overall out of North Carolina State in June. He improved in playing with pace after his preseason debut this week and during Thursday night’s 112-89 loss to Orlando — with most of Mavs’ starting unit and all of the veterans remaining home for the second game of a back-to-back — Smith got a taste of running the show and calling his own plays.
Smith was able to get his teammates involved while also creating for himself plenty, finishing with 13 points, three rebounds and one assist in nearly 19 minutes during his third preseason game.
“I’m very comfortable,” said Smith, who only played the first half. “At the end of the day it’s just playing basketball, making the right reads and things like that. I’ve been doing that for a very long time so I just have to keep coming out and learning the game and I will keep getting better.”
Mavs associate head coach Melvin Hunt, who filled in for a sick Rick Carlisle on Thursday, said he most pleased with Smith’s growth in calling his own plays against Orlando.
“I wanted him to get the feel of that responsibility and he did some great things. It was subtle,” Hunt said. “He did some subtle things that were big time. It’s fun watching him develop.”
Smith was coming off a back-to-back in which he scored 14 points on Wednesday night during a home win over Chicago. He played with much better pace Wednesday than in his debut and Thursday night he improved a little bit more in that area without starters like Dirk Nowitzki, Harrison Barnes and Wesley Matthews not even in the building.
He converted two of four shots from 3-point range, and continued to show his great athletic range by driving to the basket and also soaring above Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic for an alley-oop slam in the second quarter.
“It was a great play call by Coach Hunt, that’s it,” Smith said of the alley-oop feed from Seth Curry. “He set me up how I need to be set up and Seth made a great pass.”
MAGIC 112, MAVERICKS 89
Aaron Gordon had 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Nikola Vucevic added 14 points in Orlando’s home preseason debut. Dallas’ Dennis Smith, the No. 9 overall pick in the June’ draft scored all 13 of his team-high points in the first half on a night when the Mavericks left most of their starters and veterans at home.
DALLAS: The Mavericks brought a skeleton crew into Amway Center with several of the veterans and coach Rick Carlisle not making the trip on a preseason back-to-back. Starters Dirk Nowitzki, Wesley Matthews and Harrison Barnes did not make the trip along with veteran reserves Nerlens Noel, J.J. Barea, Josh McRoberts and Devin Harris. Carlisle did not make the trip because he was ill. Associate head coach Melvin Hunt stood in for Carlisle.
ORLANDO: Rookie first-round draft pick Jonathan Isaac struggled in his home debut, converting just one of five from the field to finish with just two points, three rebounds and two blocked shots in 17 minutes. Recent Hall of Fame inductee and former Magic star Tracy McGrady sat courtside. … Forward Adreian Payne suffered a fractured left hand during Tuesday night’s practice. Payne is a two-way player for the Magic, who appeared in 18 games last season with Minnesota.
UP NEXT: The Mavericks (2-1) are off until Monday when they will host Orlando. The Magic (1-1) will host the Miami Heat on Saturday night.
NETS 107, HEAT 88
Jeremy Lin scored 16 points and the Nets outrebounded the Heat 62-37 in their second straight preseason victory.
Tyler Johnson had 21 points and nine rebounds for Miami, while Hassan Whiteside added 19 points and nine boards.
HEAT: The Heat were a dismal 4 for 28 (14 percent) from 3-point range. … Erik Spoelstra started the same five (Rodney McGruder, James Johnson, Whiteside, Dion Waiters and Goran Dragic) as Miami’s preseason opener against Atlanta, saying that group asked for a second chance even though he felt they didn’t play well. … Dragic scored 12 points but fellow starting guard Waiters had two on 1-for-8 shooting.
NETS: D’Angelo Russell scored nine points, going 4 for 14 from the field and 1 for 7 from 3-point range. … Reserve Sean Kilpatrick had 14 points and seven rebounds. … Rondae Hollis-Jefferson had 10 points and eight rebounds. Swingmen Caris LeVert and Allen Crabbe remained sidelined with ankle injuries.
UP NEXT: Miami (1-1) visits Orlando on Saturday. Brooklyn (2-0) hosts New York on Sunday.
TIMBERWOLVES 111, WARRIORS 97
Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns each scored 16 points in 26 minutes apiece for the Timberwolves in Shenzen, China. Durant scored 20 points in 25 minutes to lead Golden State.
MINNESOTA: Power forward Taj Gibson is looking more with his new team after being reunited with Thibodeau, his old Chicago Bulls coach. Gibson scored 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds while showing the ability to become more of a “stretch four” in Thibodeau’s system. He hit one of two 3-point shots — not bad for a player who has attempted only 35 3s in his career and made only three last season. … Andrew Wiggins added 14 points on 5 of 11 shooting from the field.
GOLDEN STATE: Curry hit three of six from 3-point range, as did Klay Thompson, who finished with 13 points in 24 minutes.
UP NEXT: The Warriors (0-2) and Timberwolves (2-0) meet again on Sunday in Shanghai, China.
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