Finney-Smith defending everybody, except maybe pre-teens

Dorian Finney-Smith has been getting a lot of love for his defensive stands recently against LeBron James, Steph Curry, Donovan Mitchell and others.

That’s nothing.

Try playing D against a houseful of pre-teens.

His daughter, Sinai, turned 12 recently and had a slumber party after a Mavericks’ win.

“Right after the game, I had (lots of) girls in the house,” Finney-Smith said. “But we had fun. I kept getting kicked out of their space. Lei she’s 12, so now she thinks she knows more than me. “

Asked if she knew Finney-Smith had been working that night, he said: “She told me: good game. But that wasn’t important. “

And so it goes in fatherhood.

While he might need zone defense at the house, Finney-Smith is forging a terrific reputation for himself with his defensive abilities against some of the NBA’s best players.

So much so that he may no longer be under the radar when it comes to being a candidate to be a on one of the NBA’s all-defense teams.

No Maverick has earned NBA all-defensive honors since Tyson Chandler was a second-team selection in 2011.

Before that, you have to go back to 1990, when Derek Harper was pestering opposing guards.

Nobody in franchise history has made the first-team, which is remarkable considering the Mavericks have been around more than four decades.

So either they are overdue for a defender to be recognized, or the odds remain stacked against Finney-Smith. If things keep going the way they have been, he’ll be impossible to ignore.

After a week when he made life miserable for several star players, the 6-7 Finney-Smith is getting noticed. In order, Finney-Smith was the primary defender on Curry, James, Curry again and Mitchell in four of the five games during the Mavericks’ current winning streak.

The results? Curry shot 11 of 25 in the first meeting, 3-of-10 from 3-point range, which qualifies as a lukewarm night for him. James was 3-of-7 in the fourth quarter, when the Mavericks took charge.

Curry had a decent shooting night in the game in Dallas, but did not get a shot off in the fourth quarter. Mitchell was 5-of-19 for the game.

These are three of the elite scorers in the league. And they could not work their magic against Finney-Smith and the Mavericks.

So is that enough to get the Mavericks’ forward on the radar for an all-defensive team nod?

“For sure,” said coach Jason Kidd, who was an all-league defensive performer himself. “When you look at what he does on a nightly basis, him and Reggie (Bullock) take the top offensive guys every night and they don’t complain. They don’t complain about the offensive end either.

“We’ve asked them to take that challenge and I think Dorian and Reggie have done a great job. Dorian should be on one of the teams and Reggie hopefully gets mentioned, too. “

Bullock’s work indeed has been a big part of the Mavericks’ defensive success.

But it is Finney-Smith who routinely has to guard the opponent’s player with the highest usage rate. He is third in the league (behind Luguentz Dort and Mikal Bridges) in most possessions guarding the opponent’s highest-usage player, doing so on 1,494 occasions.

And of all NBA players who have guarded at least 150 isolation situations, Finney-Smith is fourth in points allowed per chance. He also is averaging a career-best 1.16 steals per game and the Mavericks are 15-6 when he gets two-plus steals.

Finally, he’s contested the 13th most 3-pointers in the league, no small feat given the amount of time opponents try to drive him to the rim or post up.

Not that you’re going to get Finney-Smith to toot his own horn for any postseason honors.

“I’m so chill, I’d never bring it up,” he said after the Utah game. “But you know how it is. I just let my work do the talking. I think I’m in the conversation, but that ain’t my choice. I guess you got to be one of those type of guys (who talks a lot) for them to even notice. Sometimes I don’t get a lot of steals. But I make it tough for guys. “

And, in case you were wondering, Finney-Smith’s work on defense is reflective of how the Mavericks have progressed to one of the stoutest defensive teams in the NBA.

Since Jan. 1, they rank second in the NBA in overall defensive rating at 106.8 points per 100 defensive possessions. Before the calendar turned, they were 14thgiving up 108.7 points.

They now are second in the league in fewest points allowed at 103.7 per game.

As is his nature, Finney-Smith is quick to share any rewards that come his way.

“When I am out there, I find joy in trying to stop somebody,” the Florida product said. “But Luka (Dončić) has also been doing a good job. They have been trying to search for him and he has been doing a good job of guarding guys and making them change their directions and making it tough for them.

“It isn’t just me out there. Obviously, me and Reggie are doing what we do but you have to think about Luka and JB (Brunson) because guys have been trying to pick on them and they have been doing a good job. “

That’s the Mavericks’ defensive scheme. It is built for each player to help the other.

It may not lend itself to individual glory. But it’s certainly been the reason the Mavericks are vying for a home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Twitter: @ESefko

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