Friday, February 18, 2011
Dallas Mavericks 112, Phoenix Suns 106
The Mavericks went into Phoenix and came out with their 13th win in the last 14 games before the All-Star break.
Although his team had already battled through many ups and downs through the first 55 games of the season, Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said he didn’t see any significance in the fact that the squad had a chance to reach its 40th win heading into the All-Star break with a victory in Phoenix on Thursday night.
Looking for a second win over the Suns this season, Carlisle admitted that collecting a victory in the final game before the mid-season layoff was less about becoming just the fourth squad to reach 40 wins and more so about continuing a stretch of 12 wins in the previous 13 outings.
“It would mean we have one more than 39,” Carlisle said in his pre-game address to the media. “It’s significant that way. It’d be great, but we’ve got to focus in on a process for us … We’re trying to win as many as we can, for sure.”
Significant or not, it’s now a reality.
It wasn’t easy, but the Mavericks did in fact escape the US Airways Center with a 112-106 victory to head into All-Star Weekend with a 40-16 record for the second-best mark in the Western Conference.
“It says a lot,” center Tyson Chandler said. “All the injuries we’ve been through, the ups and downs. To be able to keep our composure and be one of four teams to get to 40 before the All-Star break is a big-time accomplishment for us.”
But the Mavericks would once again have a couple of obstacles in their way.
Backup point guard J.J. Barea was sidelined for the game while as he battled a fever. Meanwhile, second-year guard Roddy Beaubois took the court for just his first back-to-back of the season, after returning from a six-month absence due to a fractured left foot to make his season debut Wednesday night in the team’s 116-100 win over Sacramento.
Beaubois, however, wouldn’t have to wait to make an impact as he did the night before, sliding into the starting lineup in place of swingman DeShawn Stevenson.
The young guard would dazzle early, picking up where he left off the night before, when he tallied 13 points and six assists. But the budding star admitted later that he was playing on tired legs.
“It was tough. It was definitely tough,” Beaubois said after scoring nine points on 4-of-10 from the floor. “I was fighting out there, but I guess it’s normal. It had been a long time, but I have to push myself. I need a couple of games and then I’ll be ready to go. But right now, it’s tough.”
But forwards Dirk Nowitzki and Peja Stojakovic were able to lift Beaubois up, draining midrange and perimeter jumpers as the Mavericks jumped out to an early edge, holding a 28-25 advantage after one.
The Mavericks hit on 13-of-22 from the floor in the quarter, bettering the Suns’ 11-of-24 in the period.
As he did 24 hours earlier, second-string center Brendan Haywood gave the Mavericks a lift with his play inside in the second quarter. The big man got plenty of help also, as Nowitzki continued to stroke the hot hand to give the Mavs a double-digit lead.
“I felt good, had a good rhythm there early,” Nowitzki said. “I made a couple of shots early and that usually helps … Just kept on attacking.”
But the Suns (27-27) would climb back into the game behind big man Channing Frye, closing the gap to 54-51 in Dallas’ favor at the end of the first half.
Even after outshooting the Suns through two quarters, 55 percent to 48 percent, the Mavericks’ lead sat at just three. And that was the case despite Nowitzki’s 19 first-half points on 8-of-10 shooting, which would just be a sign of things to come.
It didn’t take long for the Suns to erase that slight Dallas advantage early in the third quarter, however, as the two teams exchanged the lead. And after the Suns pulled in front, Stevenson did his best to keep the home team from pulling away.
Then Nowitzki engineered a 9-0 Dallas spurt to close the period, giving the Mavericks an 85-80 edge heading to the fourth quarter.
The Mavs continued to ride the wave of the run into the final 12 minutes of play, pulling ahead by seven behind Nowitzki’s long-range bombs. But the Suns refused to go away, climbing to within two at the foul line after getting in the penalty.
Forward Shawn Marion then hustled to protect the lead, coming out of nowhere to block Vince Carter on a reverse layup attempt.
“We got some big stops,” Marion said. “But a block is a block. It’s just a matter of timing.”
The Dallas defense then began to scramble to Phoenix’s shooters, while Nowitzki attempted to put the Suns away at the offensive end. His teammates then came to his aid, after Chandler’s and-one finish above the rim and point guard Jason Kidd’s driving score gave the Mavericks a nine-point lead.
Sixth man Jason Terry then thought he had put the game away for good on a jumper with 1:33 remaining to give the Mavs a 107-99 lead. But consecutive scores by the Suns cut their deficit to just four inside of the final minute.
Still, the Mavericks didn’t panic, especially after Chandler’s tip-in off his own miss to put his team up six with just 20.1 seconds on the clock.
“We came up with some big plays down the stretch,” Chandler said. “We knew this would be a tough game, going into the All-Star break on a back-to-back. But for us to step up and make the type of key plays that we did down the stretch, that’s winning basketball.”
The Mavs still weren’t out of the woods, though, after Frye banked in a three to cut the Mavs’ lead in half with 17.3 ticks left. That’s when Terry intervened once more, connecting on a pair of foul shots to widen the margin with 14.1 seconds still remaining. Kidd then capped off the night, grabbing the rebound off Frye’s missed three and hitting 1-of-2 at the free throw line to end matters.
“It was unconventional tonight, but our guys really wanted to win this game and we knew it was gonna be tough. So, I’m really proud of them. I thought both teams played aggressive and smart. We just made more plays in the end,” Carlisle said.
Nowitzki finished the night with a game-high 35 points on 13-of-18 from the floor and a perfect 3-for-3 from behind the arc. It’s his first 30-point game since dropping 32 points in a 103-89 loss to Detroit back on Jan. 17.
“Dirk’s back,” Carlisle emphatically said. “He’s all the way back and it’s great. It’s really good timing, because now he has the All-Star break. He can recharge a little bit. He can play his 16 minutes in the All-Star Game, or whatever it’s gonna be … But Dirk Nowitzki is back.”
Ever the perfectionist, however, Nowitzki pointed out the one downside in his performance Thursday night.
“I had that one big rebound, so I feel good about myself,” Nowitzki joked after grabbing just a single board in the win.
Terry added 16 points off the bench, while Chandler finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds for a double-double. Marion’s 12 points and Stojakovic’s 10 additional points made it at least five Mavericks in double figures for the 13th straight game.
Frye led six Suns in double figures with 24 points, while former Maverick Steve Nash finished with 15 points and 14 assists.
The Mavericks also ended the night outshooting the Suns, 52 percent to 51 percent, to overcome Phoenix’s 52-42 edge in points in the paint and 43-39 advantage in rebounding.
Now, Nowitzki heads to Los Angeles to make his 10th straight All-Star appearance. Meanwhile, the rest of the team will take four days off before returning to Dallas to begin a second-half playoff push with next Wednesday night’s matchup at the American Airlines Center against the Utah Jazz, a team the Mavs beat twice in the month of December.
“This is the latest All-Star break in history after playing 56 games,” Carlisle said. “I’ve never had one like this. So, it’s a bit unusual. But our guys have really hung in and done a great job. And they deserve the break.”
Note: The Mavericks return to the American Airlines Center next Wednesday night to host the Utah Jazz. The Mavericks lead the season series with the Jazz 2-0 after wins in Salt Lake City and Dallas back in December. The game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest. Great seats are still available and tickets can be purchased by visiting the American Airlines Center box office, logging on to Mavs.com or by calling 214-747-MAVS (6287).
Stay connected with Dallas Mavericks inside reporter Earl K. Sneed by clicking "like" on his Facebook page or by following him on Twitter. Got a question for EKS? Send your question, along with your first name, last initial, city and state with the subject line "Ask EKS" to email@example.com, and you could be published on Mavsfastbreak.com, the Mavericks' new official blog site.
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