Rallying from a 19-point first-quarter deficit, the Mavericks were able to rely on their bench and leading scorer Dirk Nowitzki to claim a sixth straight win in Toronto. Earl K. Sneed recaps the action.
TORONTO, ON — The Mavericks had very little time to celebrate their hard-fought 105-99 win over the Washington Wizards in the nation’s capital on Saturday night. That’s because the team immediately had to board a flight to Toronto, ON for a second date with the Raptors less than 24 hours later.
Looking to put the victory from the night before behind them, the Mavs journeyed north of the border hoping to ride the momentum of 15 wins in their previous 16 games. The team also sought revenge as they stepped into the Air Canada Centre, after the Raptors (16-44) ended a five-game win streak for the Mavs back on Dec. 28, when Dirk Nowitzki was forced to watch helplessly in street clothes due to a sprained right knee while his teammates fell to an 84-76 home loss.
Before taking the court for the second game of a back-to-back, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle admitted that his players could no longer look back at what went right the night before. The coach, however, had no problem with the team using the December defeat as inspiration to return the favor.
But not even Carlisle could foresee what would happen next, as the Mavericks (43-16) staged their best comeback of the season, battling back from a 19-point disadvantage in the first quarter and later sprinting to a runaway 114-96 victory.
The comeback eclipsed the Mavericks’ rally from a 15-point deficit in their 112-105 win over the Los Angles Clippers on Jan. 25.
“These guys know where it’s at,” Carlisle said of his players after the win. “They’re experienced enough and veteran enough to know that if you come out and aren’t ready to play at a high level, you’re gonna get your face smashed in. And that’s what happened to us early. We took the hit and we fought back. And some nights, that’s how you’ve got to win.”
Fortunately for the Mavericks their opponent Sunday evening was once again without its leading scorer, as big man Andrea Bargnani was sidelined with flu-like symptoms after also missing the first game between the two teams. That meant that rookie Ed Davis would once again slide into the Raptors’ starting lineup, after scoring 17 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in the first meeting against the Mavs.
But the Mavericks would stumble out the gate, falling behind 22-3 from the opening tip.
“That was ugly early,” Nowitzki said. “We couldn’t really get any stops. We actually had some looks that rolled in and out. Everything was a little too easy on their offensive end. And we were a step slow to everything.”
“The best thing about tonight’s game is that (the early deficit) kind of woke us up,” point guard Jason Kidd added. “Nobody panicked, nobody had their heads down. We had some great looks that didn’t go down. The unfortunate thing is we didn’t play any defense for the first five minutes, and so they scored and we didn’t and we find ourselves in a hole.”
The team would rally, however, after missing 12 straight shots, as star reserves Jason Terry and Shawn Marion righted the ship. And after Terry’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the quarter, the Mavs faced just a 30-24 deficit after an opening period they’d prefer to forget.
“It just took us a little while to get our legs warmed up,” Marion explained. “But once we got warmed up they still were hitting some shots, because they got their confidence early.”
Nowitzki would do his best to shoot the Mavericks closer in the second quarter, pulling his team to within one with an array of offensive moves. But despite the sharpshooter’s 16 second-period points, the Mavs still trailed by a margin of 57-50 heading into the halftime intermission.
Led by Nowitzki’s 18 points on 5-of-11 shooting, the Mavericks stayed in the game. But the Mavs were outshot through two quarters, 52 percent to 39 percent, keeping them from overcoming their disastrous start.
The Mavericks would get an explosive start to the third quarter, though, with Kidd finding second-year standout Roddy Beaubois above the rim for an alley-oop finish. Meanwhile, Carlisle went with Marion coming out of the locker room in place of small forward Peja Stojakovic, after the versatile four-time All-Star scored 10 points off the bench in the first half.
The strategy worked to the Mavs’ benefit as Marion sparked a 10-0 run, giving his team its first lead since the first basket of the game at 62-61.
“I thought one of the real keys to the game was when Marion started the third quarter to match up with (Amir) Johnson. And he had a tremendous all-round third quarter for us, and I thought that energized our team and got us the lead,” Carlisle said.
The team would remain slightly in front behind a dominant defensive effort by center Tyson Chandler and outside shooting by Kidd. Marion and Terry then lifted the Mavs to a 75-72 advantage heading into the final quarter.
And after handing the scoring duties over to Marion in the third, Nowitzki got back into the act early in the last period, draining an and-1 jumper over former Maverick Alexis Ajinca before Terry’s 3-pointer gave Dallas a nine-point edge. A short time later the duo pushed the lead up to double figures as the Mavs began to pull away.
“We played last night, so we knew that we would have to work this game from start to finish. And in the second half, we got some traction,” Carlisle said.
“We were able to buckle down and get some stops, multiple stops, and open the game up,” Marion echoed.
And in a 42-point turnaround, the Mavs would put the Raptors away late with scores by Terry and backup point guard J.J. Barea, while reserve big man Ian Mahinmi’s play at both ends of the floor kept the home team from climbing back into the game after Dallas went ahead by as much as 23.
Nowitzki finished with a game-high 31 points on 11-of-20 from the floor, after hitting just six of 18 shots a night prior. He also pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds, helping the Mavs to a 40-39 edge on the boards.
Meanwhile, the Mavericks had four scorers in double figures off the bench, led by Marion’s 20 points and Terry’s 19. Mahinmi’s 13 points and Barea’s 12 additional points made it five Mavericks to score in double figures to go along with a 64-25 advantage in bench scoring.
“I thought our bench really saved us,” Nowitzki said. “Some nights the starting five just doesn’t have it for whatever reason — fatigue or no rhythm, whatever. But our bench was phenomenal. It really changed the game when ‘Trix [Marion] and JET [Terry] came in. Mahinmi was great all night long and J.J. did what he’s been doing. So, the bench really won us the game.”
“We’ve got guys that can step up and have a big night any night for this team. And that’s the great makeup of this team,” Marion added.
Johnson led three Raptors in double figures with 21 points on 10-of-13 from the floor. And after their dreadful first quarter, the Mavericks were just barely outshot by the Raptors, 49 percent to 48 percent.
The Mavericks will now take Monday off, traveling back stateside for Tuesday night’s matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers to conclude a three-game road trip. When the two teams met in Dallas on Nov. 12, the Mavericks were able to fight their way to a 99-90 home victory. They’ll try to do it again, this time in the Sixers’ backyard.
Note: The Mavs wrap up their road trip in Philly on Tuesday night, in a game will tip off at 6 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest.
The team will return to Dallas and host the Indiana Pacers next Friday, March 4, looking to avenge a 102-89 road loss on Jan. 12. That 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).
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