Friday, December 11, 2009
Dallas Mavericks 106, Miami Heat 93
Nowitzki posted a team-high 25 points, but Erick Dampier's 20-point, 17-rebound night stabilized the Mavericks in the paint.
Having battled through many nagging injuries at the onset of the season, the Dallas Mavericks have welcomed the month of December as they have seemingly become healthier by the day.
The Mavs took a step closer to being 100 percent when swingman Josh Howard rejoined the team on Tuesday night to play in his fourth game of the season, pouring in 20 points in 26 minutes in his return against the Phoenix Suns, in a 102-101 win. Friday night against the Miami Heat, reserve guard Quinton Ross was also available after missing eight games with a lower back injury, though the Mavericks wouldn't need him on this night. With their full compliment of players available, the Mavericks got a total team effort Friday night to take the flame out of the Heat with a wire-to-wire 106-93 win.
"We're looking for the best way to win games," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said after the win. "We're looking for the best way to have the right kind of rotation. This is a good win for us, against a team that's a very tough team to play."
"We wanted to start off well and get everybody involved," forward Dirk Nowitzki said.
Mission accomplished, Mr. Nowitzki.
For the second straight game, Carlisle went with a starting lineup of Jason Kidd, J.J. Barea, Shawn Marion, Nowitzki and Erick Dampier. Wearing the alternate royal blue uniforms, the Dallas defense forced Miami into 0-for-10 shooting to begin the game. Meanwhile, the Mavs' offense capitalized at the other end, jumping out to an early 13-1 advantage. Leading by as much as 17 before Miami's Dwyane Wade began to catch fire, Dallas took a 30-18 lead at the end of one.
Miami shot just 32 percent (7-of-22) in the first quarter. Led by Dampier's dominance inside, in addition to Nowitzki and Barea on the perimeter, the Mavs shot a staggering 59 percent in the period. Barea came out particularly aggressive, as the Puerto Rico native put on a show in front of family and friends in the same city where he played his senior year of high school ball.
"I love it down here," Barea said. "A lot of people from Puerto Rico came up and it was great. I saw the flags out there and my family was here. I went to one year of high school here, so it was a good time."
With the Mavericks' reserves in the game to start the second quarter, the Heat climbed back into the ball game, cutting the margin to as little as three. When the starters returned to the court, Carlisle continuously called Nowitzki's and Dampier's numbers. No. 41 and No. 25 responded, helping the Mavs take a 53-46 lead into the half.
Nowitzki led Dallas with 16 first half points, while Dampier was just one board short of a double-double through the first 24 minutes with 10 points and nine rebounds. Wade and Udonis Haslem matched each other with 13-point outputs to lead Miami at the half. After the hot start, Dallas cooled down to 49 percent shooting through the first two periods, while Miami connected on 42 percent.
The Dallas advantage quickly went back into double figures in the early minutes of the third quarter, as Kidd found the touch from behind the 3-point arch. With Marion and Dampier scoring at will above the rim, the Mavs received a bit of a scare in the period when Marion limped off the court after stepping on Dampier's foot. When the forward went out, albeit briefly after having his left ankle re-taped, Howard stepped in and showed no ill effects on his surgically-repaired left ankle, as Dallas took an 84-73 edge into the fourth.
"We'll have to see where things are tomorrow. Shawn was able to come back in the game, and that was big for us. But we didn't want to put him back in at the end, and so we'll evaluate it tomorrow," Carlisle said.
"Offensively, I thought we were just moving the ball and playing together," Nowitzki said. "We have a lot of weapons out there, especially with Josh coming back now, so we were just moving the ball and taking what was there."
Not allowing Wade to take over the game in the final period, the Mavericks answered every Heat attempt to get back in the game. Outscoring Miami 22-20 in the fourth, Dallas put the lid on the 13-point victory.
Forcing Wade into 8-of-24 from the floor to claim his game-high 28 points, the Dallas defense held Miami to just 40 percent shooting. The Heat hit just 2-of-12 from behind the 3-point arch.
"I think all night we did a decent job on Wade," Nowitzki said. "Obviously he gets his points because he's so gifted and talented, but we tried to bother him on his shot, keep him out of the lane and keep a body and a half on him in transition. I think we did a decent job tonight."
"Dwyane Wade got his average but he's one of the best players in this league, he's going to do that to make his team better. So, we just went out there and did the job defensively and we were able to come out victorious," Dampier said.
Meanwhile, Nowitzki posted a team-high 25 points, but his teammate in the middle of the lineup may have had the biggest impact on the night. Dampier's 20-point, 17-rebound night stabilized the Mavericks in the painted area when Nowitzki saw the double team.
"With them double-teaming, you're going to give up something, whether it be something around the basket or an open shot outside. When they double-teamed Dirk tonight, he hit guys for open shots or he hit me for easy baskets around the basket," Dampier said.
Jason Terry (16), Barea (12) and Marion all joined the starting frontline in double figures. Barea matched Kidd with 10 assists, to claim his second career double-double.
"J. Kidd is still to us one of the best passers in the game, and that's what he does," Nowitzki said. "And J.J. was aggressive today. He played in front of his family here and he played high school basketball here, so it's good for him to get a double-double and really get into the lane and dish the ball out and help some guys around him make shots. So that was big."
With everyone feeling the sharing spirit this holiday season, the Mavs dished out 30 assists on their 39 field goals, finishing the night shooting 49 percent to overcome Miami's 46-42 rebounding edge.
"Miami does a great job on initial defensive action, so you're going to have to move it to get good shots. Fortunately for us, our shot making was good through the majority of the game and when you move the ball and make shots you get a lot of assists," Carlisle said.
In his second game back, Howard score five points in 23 minutes off the bench. Ross never saw action on the night.
Playing on the second night of a back-to-back, Dallas will try to run its winning streak to three when the Mavs return home to host the Charlotte Bobcats on Saturday night. Over 500 members of the armed forces will fill the American Airlines Center floor seats and lower level, as season ticket holders gave up their chairs for the sixth annual "Seats for Soldiers" night. The game will air on Fox Sports Southwest at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS.
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