Mavs, Smith riding high with Warriors coming to town
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In each of the last four games for the Dallas Mavericks, there were times in the fourth quarter when the game could have slipped away.
But in each case it didn't, as rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. piloted the Mavs to a finish line that ended in victory.
"It's all about just trusting each other at the end of games," Smith said. "We've got a team that we like each other outside of basketball, so it's not hard to do. It's just been taking some time, but I think we've figured it out now, though.
"I just go out there and do what I do. The last four games have been close ones. I've been in the last four games, we won the last four games, so something is working."
The chances of running that season-high streak to five appear slim with the defending champion Golden State Warriors (29-8) coming to American Airlines Center on Wednesday night, especially with Steph Curry back.
After missing the previous 11 games with an ankle injury, Curry returned Saturday to score a game-high 38 points in a 141-128 victory over Memphis. Curry nailed 10 3-pointers, a single-game high in the NBA this season, added four rebounds and three assists.
"I was happy to be back out there with my guys," Curry said. "You sit and watch for 11 games, you just wonder what it's going to be like to get back out there. I finally got that opportunity. I didn't know what to expect."
Smith, no doubt, is looking forward to the challenge of facing Curry again. The ninth overall pick has Dallas (13-25) playing its best basketball of the season, which is no coincidence since he's doing the same.
Smith is averaging 13.8 points, 4.3 assists and 4.1 rebounds on the season. Those numbers are up to 14.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists during the winning streak, culminating with 19 points -- including the Mavs' final 11, six assists and five boards in Sunday's 116-113 victory at Oklahoma City.
"I expect to have big games," Smith said. "You know, whenever I have bad games, that will motivate me even more. But coming out and having big games, I definitely want to repeat it. But I kind of expect it. ... It's about wanting the moment. If you want it, I wanted it, and I wanted to be in a position to shoot it at the end of the game."
Dallas coach Rick Carlisle saw Smith take a step in his development against Oklahoma City.
"He was great," Carlisle said. "You know, he finished the game with a couple of big baskets and some big free throws. Look, it was an up-and-down night. There were a lot of pick-and-rolls, and they were trapping him. He hasn't seen that.
"He went through some situations, but he kept his energy up, he kept his head up and he kept attacking. He kept encouraging everybody in the huddles during timeouts, too, so it was just so much growth. I'm really happy for him."
Golden State is 2-0 against the Mavs this season, winning by a combined 45 points.
Updated January 4, 2018