Sunday, March 27, 2011
Dallas Mavericks 94, Utah Jazz 77
The Mavs claimed their first four-game sweep of the Jazz after a big fourth-quarter charge led by sixth man Jason Terry.
Despite the fact that the Utah Jazz came into Saturday night one game below .500, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle saw his team’s first opponent on a 10-day, six-game road trip as the perfect tone setter for a handful of tough games that still lie ahead.
Even without ex-Maverick Devin Harris (hamstring) and starting forward Andrei Kirilenko (bruised nerve in knee) available for the Jazz, Carlisle expected for his team to be locked in a physical and gritty contest, preparing his players for a 48-minute fight before the two squads stepped on the floor.
“This is gonna be a physical playoff-style game,” Carlisle said heading into the showdown. “And this is the kind of basketball we’re gonna see here in the next 10 days or so.”
With the Mavericks fully expecting to find themselves in a battle for four quarters, they took the court at EnergySolutions Arena looking for their first ever four-game season series sweep of the Jazz, after three convincing wins over the Utah team earlier in the season.
But things wouldn’t go so swimmingly for the Mavericks this time around, although the end result would be the same. Despite sluggish play for the better part of three quarters, the Mavericks (51-21) notched their third straight win overall and the season sweep of the Jazz (36-38), coming on strong in the fourth period to claim a 94-77 victory to begin the road trip on a positive note.
“Every game on this trip is gonna be like this — desperate teams fighting for their playoff lives or playoff positioning and very emotional and crowds that are really into it. And I loved it. I thought it was great,” Carlisle said after the victory.
The physicality Carlisle spoke off would be displayed from the opening tip-off, as both teams tried to battle through early foul trouble in their starting backcourts, with Dallas’ Rodrigue Beaubois and Utah’s Earl Watson both hearing two quick whistles in the first period. Meanwhile, the Jazz would feast off early turnovers by the Mavericks to open up a nine-point advantage. The Mavericks would immediately respond with a 10-0 run, however, to take a brief advantage.
Still, after committing eight first-quarter turnovers, the Mavs trailed 22-20 at the end of 12 minutes of play.
The Mavericks’ foul woes would continue in the second period with both Beaubois and reserve guard J.J. Barea picking up their third personals in the quarter.
“They really called a close game early on. We had a bunch of guys with two or three fouls,” forward Dirk Nowitzki said.
Despite Nowitzki’s 17 first-half points to keep the Mavs in the game, the team could do little to overcome 12 turnovers which led to 10 Utah points at the other end. Meanwhile, Al Jefferson and C.J. Miles both posted 13 points at the midway point to help the Jazz outshoot the Mavericks, 54.1 percent to 48.3 percent.
“We didn’t catch the ball and we had a lot of offensive fouls,” point guard Jason Kidd said when summing up the first half. “So, it happens in a game, but we were still down four.”
Starting center Tyson Chandler would be the third Mav to find himself in foul trouble early in the third quarter, picking up fouls No. 3 and 4 in the period. And although the Mavericks would find some success with Kidd operating in the post and sixth man Jason Terry on the perimeter, neither team would scorch the nets with their shooting in the quarter, as Utah took a 60-58 edge into the final 12 minutes.
“I felt like we were watching the NCAA tournament at the end of the third quarter,” forward Shawn Marion joked. “Sixty-two to 58, what kind of score is that?”
Sharpshooting forward Peja Stojakovic would give the Mavs a 63-62 edge with a 3-pointer in the early minutes of fourth, but the lead wouldn’t last long as the two teams exchanged scores. After a Raja Bell jumper with 6:22 remaining to put the Jazz up 70-68, Carlisle would switch to a three-guard lineup of Kidd, Terry and Barea, with Marion and Chandler joining them while Nowitzki sat.
The move would pay immediate dividends.
“Nothing else was working good … just kept trying different things,” Carlisle said of the strategy behind the lineup. “It was something that we hadn’t done in the game, and the extra playmaker was good. It brought more quickness.”
“It gave them a different look, it made us play a little quicker, and as you know, in our flow offense we’re pretty tough to beat,” Terry said of the small-ball lineup.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Barea and Terry gave the Mavs a 74-70 lead with 5:07 remaining. The Dallas defense would then come alive, forcing stops which led to easy transition scores and a 13-0 run at the other end of the floor.
“Once we took care of the ball and got shots we started to push forward and got breathing room,” Kidd said.
“This is what we need. This is a playoff-style game and very emotional. Hey, it’s all about hanging in there. And we were searching for a group to get us some traction and the group that finished the game was awesome…That group the last six minutes got the job done and it was terrific,” Carlisle added.
Late scores by Chandler and Marion, who became the 118th player in NBA history to pass 15,000 points for his career in the final quarter, would close the door on the Jazz the rest of the way, as the Mavericks accomplished what they set out to do despite having to work for it the entire night.
“We didn’t think this game should have been close at all. You know, we’ve been practicing hard, we’ve been preparing hard, trying to play every game like a playoff game. And tonight the level of intensity was like the playoffs. But as far as just getting out and getting the lead, it wasn’t happening for us. So, that was kind of frustrating, but we locked in on both ends of the floor and did what we had to do to get the win,” Terry explained.
“I’ll take it. A win is a win and this was a great win, too,” Marion added.
Off the bench, Terry would lead the way, scoring a game-high 22 points on 6-of-7 shooting and 4-of-5 from 3-point range.
“He’s one of our closers in the fourth,” Nowitzki said of Terry. “He’s been doing that for six or seven years, however long he’s been here. And tonight he was great. Twenty-two points on seven shots, that’s pretty amazing…That’s what he does for us, and he’s one of the best shooters out there.”
After his big first half, Nowitzki finished with 19 points on 5-of-12 shooting, making 9-of-9 from the free throw line to extend his consecutive makes streak to 72 — the longest in the NBA this season and 10 shy of his career-high of 82 straight.
Meanwhile, Marion pitched in 13 points and Chandler registered 10 to give the Mavericks four scorers in double figures. Before being ejected for two technical fouls with just 48.5 seconds left in the game, Jefferson produced 21 points to lead the Jazz, with Miles adding 16 and Paul Millsap scoring 15.
After a rough first three quarters, the Mavericks managed to outshoot the Jazz, 45.5 percent to 42.1 percent, in addition to a 40-31 rebounding advantage. The Mavs also overcame 19 turnovers, forcing the same number of Utah giveaways at the other end and scoring 19 points off the miscues compared to the Jazz’s 12 points off Dallas’ errors.
The Mavs will now turn their attention to Sunday night, when they travel to Phoenix to meet the Suns for a third time. The Mavericks lead the season series 2-0 and will try to claim a second win on the Suns’ home floor, after snatching away a 112-106 road victory on Feb. 17.
“This is the first game on this long road trip. We’ve got five more to go, and we needed the first game. The first game is the hardest one to get sometimes and we got it,” Marion said after Saturday night’s victory. “Now, we’re going on to play Phoenix tomorrow and they’re a good team. They’re a good team at home. They’re still trying to push for a playoff spot, so we know what we’ve got to do.”
NOTE: The team returns to Dallas to host the Denver Nuggets on April 6.
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