NBA Basketball

Doncic-Smith pairing in spotlight as Mavs host Pistons

As the Feb. 7 trade deadline looms, the Dallas Mavericks are hoping their young, potential-laden backcourt can show they can have success together.

Dallas got positive initial results with a win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night.

Dennis Smith Jr., a 2017 first-round pick, made his return from a six-game absence, leaving the team for the latter three because of his disappointment in his role alongside rookie sensation Luka Doncic. Amid trade speculation, Dallas went 2-4 without Smith.

As far as the 21-year-old Smith is concerned, he and Doncic are on the same page heading into Friday's home game against the Detroit Pistons.

"I feel like me and him respect one another on and off the court," Smith told reporters following Tuesday's win. "It's a mutual respect for each other's game, as well. I don't feel like it's ever been an issue. I feel like it's looked way too far into."

The explosive, 6-foot-3 Smith was drafted with the ninth pick to become the club's point guard of the future. Those plans have changed drastically with the instant emergence of the 6-7 Doncic, who quickly took over as the primary ball-handler.

Smith scored 17 points in the win over the Clippers, grabbed a season-best eight rebounds and dished out four assists, including two big ones during a late fourth-quarter push that helped to snap Dallas' four-game skid.

On Friday night, the Mavs will try to string together consecutive wins for only the second time since mid-December when Blake Griffin and the up-and-down Pistons visit Dallas. While it seems Smith and Doncic are compatible, it remains to be seen if Smith and longtime Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, who admits to coaching Smith hard, can form a lasting bond.

The Dallas Morning News cited a source saying that Smith prefers to move on to a team where he can start at point guard and play the position exclusively.

The Pistons arrive in Dallas with Griffin solidifying his All-Star candidacy following 37 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in a much-needed 98-94 road win Wednesday night at New Orleans. Detroit is 4-3 in its last seven games, but it's been an overall disappointing season to this point -- as its 8-19 record in its past 27 games suggests -- even with Griffin having a resurgent, and healthy, season.

Griffin is averaging 26.3 points on 48.1 percent shooting, 8.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists.

But for Griffin, who couldn't get over the hump playing alongside Chris Paul with the Los Angeles Clippers, getting the Pistons into the playoffs in the Eastern Conference is the accomplishment that matters most.

And to do that, he knows that finishing games better has to be a major priority for the Pistons, who are 4-8 in games decided by three points or less. They nearly collapsed against the Pelicans but managed to hang on.

"The way that we finished the game is the reason we've lost so many close games," Griffin said told reporters after the game.

"This time we just happened to come out on top. We got a lucky miss, a lucky bounce. We went down and got a wide-open dunk, but this doesn't feel like that good a win. Obviously, we'll take it as a team.

"We've lost so many games we're very capable of winning. Until that becomes important to us, it's going to happen."

--Field Level Media

Updated January 24, 2019

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