Earl K. Sneed recaps the action from D.C., where the Mavericks notched their fifth straight victory and 15th win in the last 16 games by outlasting John Wall and the Wizards on Saturday night.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Entering the Verizon Center winners of 14 of their previous 15 games, the Mavericks were flying high Saturday night as they prepared to match up with the lowly Washington Wizards for a second time, looking to duplicate a 102-92 victory back on Jan. 31.
But Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle predicted before the game that his team could be in for a dogfight, even despite the Wizards’ four-game losing streak coming into the night. Still, through balanced production around 10-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki, Carlisle believed that the Mavericks would in fact walk away with a fifth straight win.
Although the Mavericks’ 14-game stretch of at least five scorers in double figures would come to an end, Carlisle did get his wish. The Mavericks (42-16) continued to share the wealth while streaking up the standings, running their winning streak to five with a hard-fought 105-99 win to begin a three-game road trip.
“I’m not keeping track of the double-figure scoring streaks. We’re look at other things,” Carlisle said after the win. “This was a tough game. It was a tough game on paper and it was a tough team on the floor. [The Wizards] are athletic and they’re competing hard. And they play their best basketball against the better teams. So, we knew it would be a dogfight. And I’m glad we hung in and got the win.”
Looking to continue a stretch of balanced scoring, the Mavs stepped on the court ready to match speed and athleticism with rookie standout John Wall and the Wizards. The Mavs quickly found themselves in a 6-0 hole after the opening tip, however.
But they would respond behind the play of point guard Jason Kidd, finding center Tyson Chandler for two highlight reel alley-oops and draining a 3-pointer to knot the game at 12-all. Nowitzki and his henchmen then did the rest, lifting the Mavs to a lead as large as six before taking a 23-22 edge into the second quarter.
The two teams then exchanged the lead and the momentum early in the second period, battling as Mavericks forward Shawn Marion dazzled with scores at the rim to combat Wizards new addition Mike Bibby at the other end. But after an emphatic above-the-rim finish by Chandler over Wall, the Mavs began to pull away. Chandler followed that up with a tip-dunk over Slam Dunk contest runner-up JaVale McGee, as the Mavericks’ big man and sixth man Jason Terry opened up a double-digit lead.
Washington, however, was able to steal a little bit of momentum back, as Wall’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer cut the Mavericks’ lead to 59-49 heading into the locker room.
The trio of Chandler, Nowitzki and Terry combined for 34 points in the first half, doing much of their scoring off Kidd’s 11 assists through two quarters. Meanwhile, the Mavericks outshot the Wizards in the half, 54 percent to 50 percent.
But things would get interesting in the second half.
Despite second-year guard Roddy Beaubois’ soaring rejection on a fast-breaking Wall early in the third quarter, the Wizards began the period on a 9-0 run. But Chandler stabilized things for the Mavs with his play inside, making up for Nowitzki’s off-shooting night.
“I wanted to come out tonight and make a statement,” Chandler simply said.
“[Chandler] was great tonight. He’s been great for us all season,” Kidd said. “When he plays like he did tonight, he changes the game and makes it so easy for Dirk. And when he runs to the basket, for a passer, you just have to throw it up there and he does the hard part.”
Terry and Marion then put the Mavs back ahead by double digits, before the visiting team took a 78-72 advantage into the final period.
Nowitzki would then awaken early in the fourth, though, after shooting just 3-for-13 through three quarters. The 7-footer’s personal 5-0 run early in the period set the stage for a potential explosion. But Nick Young came right back at the Mavs, slicing through the Dallas defense for spectacular finishes at the basket.
“You’ve got to give them credit, they kept coming and kept playing hard,” Nowitzki said of the Wizards. “They fought all the way down the stretch and we just made enough plays to win.”
“You’re up nine in the fourth early, that’s a situation where you want to go up 15 or 20, ice your knees and get on the bus. But it didn’t happen,” Terry added.
Not to be denied, Nowitzki tried to close the game out down the stretch, but Wall’s back-to-back driving scores in transition cut the Dallas lead to just two, 97-95, with 2:10 remaining.
“Wall puts tremendous pressure on your entire defense … It’s tough. You’ve gotta have a couple of guys right next to you, otherwise he’s gonna find a seam and he’s gonna make things happen. And he did that a lot,” Carlisle said.
Jordan Crawford then had the honor of tying the game on a jumper. But the Mavericks answered yet again, taking the lead on Chandler’s putback in the paint, before Nowitzki connected on 2-of-3 free throws after being fouled by Rashard Lewis on a 3-point attempt with just 45.1 ticks left.
The next time down the floor on defense, Marion forced Young to come up short of the rim on a three. Terry then finished the Wizards (15-43) off at the charity stripe, putting the final touches on the Mavs’ fifth straight victory.
“Obviously, we’d like to do a few things better down the stretch, but the guys found a way and it’s good to get out of here alive,” Carlisle concluded. “You’ve gotta take the hits and come out of it alive and we did.”
“A lot of times you’ve got to grind these games out and I was proud of the guys,” Chandler added.
Terry finished with a game-high 25 points on 10-of-18 shooting, while Chandler posted a double-double with 23 points on 10-for-14 from the floor to go along with 13 rebounds. Nowitzki finished with 21 points on 6-of-18 shooting, but Marion picked up the slack, scoring 13 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
All of which was engineered by the Mavs’ future Hall of Famer at point guard, as Kidd only scored three points, but handed out 14 assists and snatched down eight rebounds.
“Everything is facilitated on ball movement. What Jason Kidd does for us is contagious, and if we continue to play this way, very unselfishly without turning the ball over or making mistakes, then we’re a tough team to beat,” Terry explained.
Wall led four Wizards in double figures with 24 points, hitting 11 of his 26 shots. But the Mavericks finished the night outshooting the Wizards, 48 percent to 46 percent, while holding a 51-48 edge in rebounding. The Mavs also raced to a 24-13 advantage in fast-break points, making up for a 54-42 deficit in points in the paint.
The Mavericks now head north of the border to face the Toronto Raptors Sunday evening, looking to avenge an 84-76 loss in Dallas without Nowitzki in the lineup back on Dec. 28.
“We got out of here with a win, and this is a stretch where we have games where, let’s be blunt, we should win,” Terry said. “Toronto beat us earlier when we thought we should win, so we’re gonna have to go up there tomorrow and get one.”
“We definitely owe those guys,” Chandler added in anticipation for a second shot at the Raptors. “But they beat us on speed, they beat us on getting up and down the floor. They outplayed us and they had more energy than us. So, tomorrow night we’ve got to make sure we get back on defense and force them into some tougher shots.”
Note: Playing on the second night of a back-to-back, the Mavericks will look for revenge in their rematch with the Raptors in Toronto. The game will tip off at 5 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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