Dallas Mavericks

Rookie Finney-Smith has been big relief for injury-prone Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks forward Dorian Finney-Smith, left, dribbles past Milwaukee Bucks center Greg Monroe, right at American Airlines Center. Finney-Smith will likely be tasked with guarding New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony on Monday.
Dallas Mavericks forward Dorian Finney-Smith, left, dribbles past Milwaukee Bucks center Greg Monroe, right at American Airlines Center. Finney-Smith will likely be tasked with guarding New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony on Monday. AP

For a player who wasn’t even drafted, Dorian Finney-Smith sure is making an early impact with the Dallas Mavericks.

After going scoreless with one rebound while playing just four minutes in the first five games of the season, the rookie from Florida has 17 points and nine rebounds in 87 minutes over the past four games. While the offensive numbers are modest at best, the defensive side of the ball is where the 6-foot-8, 220-pound small forward has truly earned his keep.

But that defense developed a hitch Wednesday when the Mavs played the Golden State Warriors. That’s when Finney-Smith had to lock defensive horns at times with Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson.

“In the beginning, I just tried not to think about it and tried not to overwhelm myself, so you just try to stay in the moment,” Finney-Smith said. “Last year, I watched this (Warriors) team on TV (in the NBA Finals) and now I’m guarding Kevin Durant.

“But as I looked back on the game when I talked to my mom, then I kind of looked back and go in my head and be like, ‘Oh wow, that’s crazy.’ I try to just leave it to basketball, because it is basketball at the end of the day.”

Finney-Smith will have another tough defensive assignment Monday at 6:30 p.m. when the Mavs (2-6) open a two-game road trip against the New York Knicks (3-6) at Madison Square Garden. He will likely be tasked with guarding Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony.

“He’s a great small forward and a player that obviously I look up to, and now I get to go up against him,” Finney-Smith said. “I can’t wait.”

Since he has family in New Jersey and Virginia, Finney-Smith also can’t wait to see some friendly faces in the crowd at Madison Square Garden, and again at TD Garden in Boston on Wednesday when the Mavs play the Celtics.

“Everybody as a kid wants to play in Madison Square Garden, and I did in college,” Finney-Smith said. “But it’s not like playing against the Knicks there.

“I’m just excited. Plus, my family is from the East Coast, so my family can come see me now.”

As Dallas tries to overcome injuries to Dirk Nowitzki (sore right Achilles), Deron Williams (strained left calf) and Devin Harris (sprained great right toe), the Mavs have been pleased with the progress Finney-Smith has made this early in his first NBA season.

“He’s very solid and steady,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He plays well within the system, he’s a very good defender and he’s shown the ability to hit open shots, so he’s a valuable guy.”

So valuable that when the injuries started stacking up for the Mavs, Carlisle didn’t hesitate turning to Finney-Smith for relief.

“I’ve just been blessed to be out there and I’m just trying to take it one day at a time,” Finney-Smith said. “A lot has changed in the past two weeks, but I’m blessed to be here and I’m just trying to take advantage of my opportunity.”

Dwain Price: 817-390-7760, @dwainprice

Mavericks at Knicks

6:30 p.m. Monday, FSSW

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