Led by the Western Conference Coach of the Month for February and sixth man Jason Terry, the Mavericks made up for center Tyson Chandler's sprained right ankle suffered in the second quarter of the teams' seventh straight win, downing a hot Sixers team. Earl K. Sneed recaps the action.
PHILADELPHIA — In a matchup featuring the NBA’s recently named Coaches of the Month in the Eastern and Western Conferences for February, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle had no problem shedding the light off of himself and onto 76ers coach Doug Collins before their respective teams met up for a second time on Tuesday night.
Just hours after receiving recognition for leading his team to an 11-1 record in February, Carlisle proclaimed that the work Collins has done molding the Sixers into a playoff contender is worthy of Coach of the Year consideration, stopping short of throwing himself into that discussion.
Still, it was Carlisle’s team that entered the showdown riding a six-game winning streak to the tune of 16 victories in its previous 17 games. Meanwhile, the Sixers (30-30) were also hot, winning four straight contests coming into the night and looking to avenge a 99-90 loss in Dallas on Nov. 12.
And after taking his hat off to Collins, Carlisle shifted gears to discussing the matchup of the league’s top two bench-scoring squads, confessing that whichever team could when the duel of reserves would likely walk away with the victory.
“The truth is both teams bring a lot of their better players off the bench,” Carlisle said in his pre-game huddle with the media. “It’s one of the reasons that they’ve had a lot of success in recent months and it’s one of the keys to how well we’ve played in the last three or fours weeks. So, the bench battle is gonna be a key battle for us every night, because we rely heavily on our guys and we need to have balance.”
Carlisle would need his reserves even more than he realized prior to the game, after starting center Tyson Chandler went down near the close of the first half with a sprained right ankle. And behind a season-high 30-point effort by sixth man Jason Terry, the Mavericks (44-16) would not only when the battle of the benches, they’d also win the war, securing a 101-93 victory to extend their winning streak to seven.
“All season long, I’ve been telling everybody we’re the best bench in basketball,” Terry said after the win. “Obviously, what [the Sixers] do offensively, they were No. 1. Tonight, we came out and we did what we do. Pretty soon they’re gonna talk about us.”
The two teams played each other to a draw in bench scoring in the first quarter, but the edge on the scoreboard would go the Mavericks’ way. The Dallas team escaped the opening period with a 23-22 lead behind second-year guard Roddy Beaubois’ lightening-quick play on the perimeter and reserve big man Brendan Haywood’s empathic finishes above the rim.
Those trends continued early in the second stanza, with both squads exchanging haymakers. But Terry and Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki would land the last punches, lifting their team to a double-digit lead in the process.
A collective gasp then came from the Mavericks’ sideline when it received a scare after Sixers big man Spencer Hawes rolled into Chandler’s legs on the defensive end, sweeping the 7-foot-1 heart and soul of the Dallas defense to the floor. Chandler would go down with the injury with just 1:06 left in the first half, limping straight to the locker room under his own power accompanied by head athletic trainer Casey Smith. He would later be ruled out for the second half.
Chandler’s teammates then joined him a short time later with a 51-44 advantage heading into the break.
“It’s a right ankle and I don’t know the severity, don’t know any kind of timetable,” Carlisle would later say of the injury.
Meanwhile, the Mavericks finished the first half outshooting the Sixers, 50 percent to 43 percent, as Terry’s 13 points off the bench on 5-of-9 from the floor and 3-of-4 from 3-point range led all scorers two quarters in.
“I haven’t seen him like that in a long time,” Nowitzki said of Terry. “He was attacking from the first quarter on.”
“I got into a rhythm early. I think it was a jumpball that [Nowitzki] won — came off a staggered screen, hit a three and didn’t even follow through. And I was like, ‘Man, I must be hot.’ I had to keep going,” Terry said.
With Haywood and fellow reserve big man Ian Mahinmi sharing Chandler’s duties, the Mavericks took the floor in the third quarter hoping not to have any drop-off in their play.
“We all pick each other up,” Haywood said after stepping in for Chandler. “I knew I had to play my role and Ian was gonna come in and do a good job. And when one man goes down the ball keeps rolling.”
“This is a special team in the sense of our focus,” point guard Jason Kidd added. “If a person goes down, it gives an opportunity for another one to step in and be able to help. And that just goes to show the depth of this team — not just one person but two. You can go to Mahinmi or to Haywood. We don’t want anybody to get hurt, but when you have that type of team it could be a special situation.”
The Sixers would steal some momentum back, however, working their way into the game with transition offense to once again lock the Mavs into a tie. But Dallas would stay ahead, as Terry put the team on his back and carried it to a 79-77 edge heading to the fourth period.
“When it kept getting close or tied, he kept answering. And it was key for us because it kept us energized,” Carlisle said of Terry’s play in the second half.
After Terry carried the Mavs through three quarters it was the Dallas defense’s turn. And behind defensive stops in a zone look and forced miscues by the Philly team, the Mavericks attempted to separate the two squads on the scoreboard.
However, the Mavs would fail to keep their slim advantage yet again, as the Sixers rallied to cut the Dallas lead to just one on Marreese Speights’ jumper with 3:56 remaining. Yet again the Mavericks would respond with a flurry of scores capped by Terry’s breakaway one-handed dunk to put his team ahead 96-91 with just 52.3 seconds left on the clock.
“Tonight, there for a second, it looked like they were gonna take control of the game. But we came back and made some shots,” Terry explained. “It was whoever wanted it and that’s how the game went. And that one possession definitely signified what that game meant to us.”
And after back-to-back 0-for-2 trips at the foul line by the Sixers’ Andre Igoudala’s and Jrue Holiday, the Mavs finished the game off with clutch free throws by Kidd and Nowitzki to seal the win.
“Philly is a team that keeps coming at you … They’re a persistent team and they keep battling. So, you’ve got to outfight them, and I thought in the end we did. But it was certainly a very difficult game,” Carlisle concluded.
Terry finished the night 13-of-18 from the floor and 3-for-5 from 3-point range, helping the Mavericks to a 54-30 edge in bench scoring.
“[Terry] showed us the whole package tonight, and that was fun to watch,” Nowitzki said.
“That’s what he does,” Kidd added with high regard for Terry’s scoring ability. “He’s a guy that can put points up in a hurry, and he did that again off the bench. We expect that from our bench and they delivered tonight.”
Nowitzki pitched in 22 points and six rebounds, while Kidd tallied up the 107th triple-double of his illustrious career, scoring 13 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing out 13 assists.
It is Kidd’s second triple-double of the season and his seventh against the Sixers all-time, tying the most times he’s reached the feat against a team to accompany his seven magical performances against San Antonio and Sacramento.
“Just trying to help my guys,” Kidd modestly said. “I just tried to come back and help rebound the ball.”
Shawn Marion was the only other Maverick to score in double figures with 10 points in a reserve role.
Jodie Meeks led five Sixers in double figures with his 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting and 4-of-7 from long range. But the Mavericks outshot the Sixers on the night, 53 percent to 44 percent, in addition to a 43-36 rebounding edge. Meanwhile, both teams struggled from the charity stripe, as Philly’s 14-of-24 from the free throw line just bettered Dallas’ 13-of-24.
Now, after a 3-0 road trip, the Mavericks fly back to Dallas to get further word on Chandler’s ankle injury. And with the severity of the injury unknown for now, Carlisle admits that he may once again have to call upon his team’s depth at center until the athletic big man is able to return to the floor.
“We’ll see how long [Chandler] is out or if he’s out,” Carlisle said. “And if we’re gonna lose him for a couple of games or whatever it is, Brendan and Ian are gonna have to carry us.”
And with Chandler’s status for the game unclear, the Mavs will now take Wednesday off before hitting the practice court in preparation for Friday night’s home showdown with the Indiana Pacers. The Dallas team will be looking to avenge a 102-89 road loss on Jan. 12.
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