Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Dallas Mavericks 84, Portland Trail Blazers 81
After hearing news of teammate Caron Butler's potentially season-ending surgery, the Mavericks grinded out a win against the Blazers.
In the wake of Caron Butler’s potentially season-ending surgery Tuesday afternoon to repair a ruptured right patellar tendon, the Dallas Mavericks immediately had to turn their attention to a Western Conference showdown against the Portland Trail Blazers later that night.
With the Mavericks (26-8) still stunned over the news, Butler’s teammates went out and played inspired basketball without the two-time All-Star. And in a hard-fought contest that featured 10 ties and 11 lead changes, the Mavericks made up for the missing toughness that No. 4 provided, as swingman DeShawn Stevenson and sixth man Jason Terry led the charge to an 84-81 victory.
“We just want to say our prayers go out to Caron,” Terry said after the win. “He had a successful surgery today, and this one was for him. He told us to go out and get it done.”
“It was sad, because to me, he’s like my brother,” Stevenson added on Butler’s injury. “I’ve been with him for like five years, so to see that happen was pretty bad. But I think the team needs to pick him up, and we have great spirit … We’re just praying for him, and we’ve got to keep playing basketball.”
Before matching up with a Blazers team that had won six of its last eight games, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle preached to his team the importance of unifying together to make up for their fallen teammate’s production.
“We’re a team of good individual players, but we’re a team first,” Carlisle said. “You’ve got to pick up the slack as a group. Right now, the challenge for us is to get better defensively. That’s gonna help trigger a lot of good things for us. And that’s gonna be the biggest part of being successful with where we’re at at this moment … It’s gonna be extremely challenging, but those are the challenges you look forward to.”
Meanwhile, both teams took the court minus their star players, as Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki missed his fifth straight game due to a sprained right knee while Blazers guard Brandon Roy continued to sit with knee trouble that has kept him sidelined since Portland’s 103-98 loss to the Mavericks on Dec. 15.
For the second straight game, counting the Mavericks’ 104-95 win in Cleveland Sunday evening, Carlisle started with a three-guard lineup of point guard Jason Kidd, Terry, Stevenson, forward Shawn Marion and center Tyson Chandler. But the Mavericks found themselves in a 14-6 hole coming out of the gate in the first quarter, putting an uphill climb ahead of the team. The Mavericks rallied, however, behind Chandler’s eight-point first quarter to knot the game at 24-all with one period in the books.
“I think we just kind of calmed down and got into the flow of things,” Chandler said. “We had a game plan, but coming out there was a little confusion. But once we got that settled, it was a good night for us.”
The Mavericks’ bench gave the team a boost of energy early in the second stanza, as reserve guard J.J. Barea sped up the tempo while backup center Brendan Haywood picked up where Chandler left off by producing inside. With rookie Dominique Jones seeing time as an acting “point forward” within a three-guard lineup — defending Blazers small forward Nicholas Batum on defense and running the offense from the lead guard spot — the Mavs tried to put some distance between the two teams on the scoreboard after snatching the lead.
“J.J. Barea gave us a great lift,” Carlisle said. ”Haywood was a big presence and hit a couple of difficult shots up against the shot clock that kept us going through some rough patches. Dominique played his game. He was good defensively. He didn’t really put up any offensive numbers, but in this type of game, you need tough-minded, physical guys that are going to guard, get you rebounds and be in position to help make plays to get other guys shots. And he did those things.”
But after the Blazers (18-17) charged back, Kidd righted the ship with his steady command of the offense and perimeter shooting. Then, in a bizarre ending to the half, Stevenson was fouled by Wesley Matthews on a three attempt to end the half. Kidd was then called for a technical foul for apparently saying something to an official when going to check on Stevenson, who was lying on the court grabbing his arm. The sequence worked out in the Mavericks’ favor, however, heading to the half with a 43-40 edge behind eight points a piece from Kidd and Chandler.
“I came out, shot the three and got fouled. And taking the lead at halftime, little things like that, is big for us,” Stevenson said of the play.
Dallas outshot Portland, 44 percent to 42 percent, in the first half. And after the Blazers shot 11-of-22 in the first period, the Dallas defense settled in and held the opposing team to just 6-of-19 from the floor in the second period.
Chandler continued to dominate the interior in the third period, picking up his sixth double-double of the season in the process. But the teams remained deadlocked, as Stevenson produced the offense for the Mavs while big man Marcus Camby was just as much of a force as Chandler inside for Portland. With Stevenson one-upping Camby, the Mavs headed into the fourth with a 62-60 advantage.
Again the Dallas bench played a big role early in the fourth. The Blazers’ reserves proved to be up to the challenge, answering back. But while Terry tried to take the game over, as he is accustom to doing in the final 12 minutes of play, the Mavericks began to unravel, with Carlisle drawing a technical call for arguing a foul on Terry.
But Chandler’s defense and rebounding refocused the team, and Terry’s corner 3-pointer tied the game at 77-all with 2:33 left on the clock. After a defensive stop, the Mavericks again went to Terry, and the sharpshooter swished in a jumper over 6-foot-10 LaMarcus Aldridge. The Blazers couldn’t draw any closer due to missed free throws, and Stevenson made them pay for it, draining a three to make it an 82-78 game with 51.5 ticks left.
“More importantly than my shot, I mean look at what DeShawn Stevenson did,” Terry said. “He doesn’t get nearly enough credit. This guy has been thrust into a role, he’s accepted his role and he’s come out and played well.”
Still, the work wasn’t done, after Matthews banked in a three to cut the lead to one. But again Terry answered, finding nothing but the bottom of the net on yet another jumper with 12.7 seconds remaining to extend the lead. And with the Blazers scrambling to tie the game with a three, the Dallas defense finished off the game, forcing Matthews into a desperation three that hit nothing but the backboard as time expired to seal the Mavericks’ second straight win without Butler and Nowitzki.
In the win, the Mavericks held the Blazers to a season-low tying scoring output by a Dallas opponent this season, matching the defensive performance displayed in the team’s 93-81 victory in Utah on Dec. 3.
“Without Dirk, without Caron, we’re gonna have to find ways to win. And tonight we did it with our defense and a total team effort,” Terry said.
“The one thing we can do as a team is get better defensively,” Carlisle echoed. ”Other than the first few minutes of the game, I thought we really battled, we played a really gritty type of game, and that’s what we’re going to have to do.”
Although both teams shot close to 42 percent, the Mavericks’ 12-2 advantage in fast-break points proved to be the difference. And coming off a season-high 21-point effort in Cleveland Sunday night, Stevenson matched Terry for team-high honors with 18 points.
Stevenson also connected on 5-of-12 from the floor and 4-of-9 from 3-point range
“I’m just out there playing basketball,” Stevenson simply said. “Everybody is focused on JET [Terry] and J-Kidd and I’m hitting wide-open threes. I’m just taking them. If not, I’m passing the ball, and it’s working right now.”
“All our guys love him and he stands for what we need to be about right now, and that is just hanging in, being tough, having the guts to step into big shots, and he was great,” Carlisle said while applauding Stevenson’s night. ”It wasn’t just the one shot towards the end, there were one or two other plays during the game that just timing-wise were very big shots for us. And defensively, he is just going to give it to you every night.”
Chandler nearly matched his effort Sunday, falling just a rebound shy with a 14-point, 13-rebound night. Meanwhile, Barea added 10 points off the bench.
Aldridge led the Blazers with 28 points and 10 rebounds, while Camby tallied up 20 rebounds to go with his 10 points. Still, the Mavericks played the Blazers to a 46-46 draw on the boards.
“Those two guys [Aldridge and Camby] are great. They both are long, they’re both active. They missed enough shots, though, for them to come in and chase them. But they’re a tough matchup,” Chandler said.
Now the Mavericks will try to defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder for a third time in the third and final regular-season matchup between the two squads when the neighboring team from the north travels south on Interstate 35 for its only trip to the American Airlines Center this season. The Mavericks seized two victories on the Thunder’s home floor early this season, 111-103 on Nov. 24 and 103-93 on Dec. 27, so they expect for the Oklahoma City squad to come into Big D with revenge in mind.
Meanwhile, the Mavericks hope to have Nowitzki back in the lineup for the matchup to offset the loss of Butler.
“There was one play that we threw out there that we usually run with Dirk, and we executed it pretty good. But hopefully we get him back soon,” Terry said.
Note: The Mavericks return to the American Airlines Center Thursday night as they continue their three-game homestand against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Mavericks snatched both games played in Oklahoma City this season and will try to sweep the season series. The Thunder-Mavericks matchup will tip off at 7 p.m. CT, airing nationally on TNT. Tickets are still available and 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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