Mavericks’ Dorian Finney-Smith’s season-high 17 lead Mavs past Kings 99-79

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DALLAS (AP) — Even after scoring a season high in points, Dorian Finney-Smith wanted to talk about his defense.

The rookie had 17 points, leading six Dallas players in double figures as the Mavericks beat the Sacramento Kings 99-79 Sunday.

The Mavericks, who lost to Sacramento by 31 points at home 11 days ago, started fast. They made 11 of their first 15 shots and never trailed.

Later, some of his teammates teased him for passing up open shots.

“When I get a hand on a ball or a tip, it gets me going,” Finney-Smith said. “I try not to lose focus on what I bring to the table, and that’s defense. If I’m making shots, that’s a plus.”

Deron Williams, Harrison Barnes and Wesley Matthews each scored 15 for Dallas.

DeMarcus Cousins scored 33 for Sacramento. The Kings were minus second-leading scorer Rudy Gay, who missed his third consecutive game because of a strained right hip flexor.

A 10-0 Mavericks run early in the second quarter opened a 38-26 lead and the Kings never got closer than nine for the remainder of the game.

“We’ve got to come out and be the aggressor, that’s just plain and simple,” Cousins said. “We can’t get off to slow starts. We can’t let a team gain confidence. We’ve got to be the aggressors every night.”

It was barely 30 degrees in Dallas and the start time was moved up three hours to 3 p.m. – that avoided a conflict with the Cowboys, whose home game against Tampa Bay was originally scheduled for the daytime and later switched to night.

Following a 120-89 home loss to the Kings on Dec. 7, the Mavericks called a team meeting. They’ve won three of four at home since then and are 3-3 overall.

“We remember (the loss), but the biggest thing is that our demeanor has to be like this every night,” Matthews said.

TIP-INS

Kings: Cousins had 23 of Sacramento’s 44 points in the first half. … Ty Lawson was the only other Sacramento player in double figures, with 10 points.

Mavericks: The Kings scored just 14 points in the third quarter, a season low for a Mavericks opponent. … Williams had seven assists and passed current Dallas television analyst Derek Harper for 21st place on the NBA’s all-time assists list with 6,584.

HARRIS A HERO

Devin Harris had a season-high 14 points and seven rebounds for the Mavericks. He made a three-point play and a four-point play to cap a 12-2 Dallas run that gave the Mavs a 76-56 lead with 2:33 left in the third quarter.

Harris had missed the team’s first 16 games with a sprained right big toe.

“When he feels good physically, he moves with joy out there,” coach Rick Carlisle said.

LET IT BEE

Kings coach Dave Joerger called for a truce in an ongoing spat between Cousins and the Sacramento Bee newspaper. Cousins recently confronted a Bee writer after a column that referenced the arrest of the 6-foot-11 star’s brother.

“This guy is the face of our franchise,” Joerger said. “He’s done and said some things that he wishes he could do over. He has improved.”

“I’m not justifying anything that he’s done. What he did was excessive. But enough is enough,” he said.

TRIBUTE TO SAGER

The Mavericks joined the list of NBA teams to hold a moment of silence before their game in honor of TNT broadcaster Craig Sager, who died Thursday. Team owner Mark Cuban remembered Sager fondly before the game.

“Smiles are underrated,” Cuban said. “Nice is underrated. Getting people to smile every time – that’s something not a lot of people have been able to accomplish.”

 

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

Associated Press
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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.