Earl K. Sneed recaps the action from Minneapolis, where backup big man Brian Cardinal was the spark as the Mavericks held off the Timberwolves on a night in which All-Star forward Kevin Love tied the post-merger record for consecutive double-doubles.
MINNEAPOLIS, MN — Although his team came into Monday night’s matchup with the Minnesota Timberwolves winners of 18 of their previous 20 games, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle expressed to his players the lessons learned in those two losses.
Both defeats came on last-second scores by the other team, with a rainbow jumper by Memphis’ Zach Randolph Sunday evening the dagger that ended the Mavericks’ eight-game win streak in a 104-103 final score, much like Arron Afflalo’s buzzer-beater to lift Denver to a 121-120 win over the Dallas squad on Feb. 10, ending a 10-game unbeaten stretch.
“There’s a lot of positive aspects to the last 20 games or whatever, but I think there’s got to be some perfectionist inside a team that’s trying to get where we’re going,” Carlisle said. “And if that’s the case, then you can’t let happen what happened last night.”
Both shots just gave Carlisle an opportunity to hammer in a point to his team before taking the court Monday night against All-Star forward Kevin Love and the Timberwolves. With that message delivered, the Mavericks tried to do something that had not been done in Love’s last 50 games, hoping to keep him from tying Moses Malone’s post-merger NBA record for consecutive double-doubles with 51.
But even Carlisle admitted that stopping Love from accomplishing the feat would be hard, especially with Mavericks center Tyson Chandler sidelined for a third straight game due to a sprained right ankle.
“It’s an unbelievable accomplishment. There’s no doubt about that. I’d like to think we can shut him down tonight, but the way he’s going, he goes and gets the ball. And a lot of his scoring is pure effort of going and getting the ball. And so, it’s not as simple as taking away certain actions in their offense, stuff like that. A lot of it is just grit and a real sense for where the ball is going and then the tenacity to go get it and then make a play with it,” Carlisle said of Love’s ability to change a game.
And while the Mavericks (46-17) couldn’t stop Love from cementing his place in history, they did get back in the win column, outdueling the Wolves for 48 minutes to leave the Twin Cities with a 108-105 victory.
With the league’s top rebounder on the opposite sideline, the Mavericks tried to get back on track, looking to begin another winning streak in the second showdown of a stretch of four games in five nights. The Mavs would face some early adversity, however, falling into a 7-2 hole from the opening tip.
And even after the trio of Dirk Nowitzki, Rodrigue Beaubois and Peja Stojakovic collectively changed the Mavericks’ fortune, lifting their squad to a brief advantage, the Dallas team would still trail 30-22 after 12 minutes of play thanks to Wayne Ellington’s buzzer-beater to end the opening period.
Both teams shot 50 percent in the first quarter, but the Wolves (15-50) attempted 10 more shots from the floor.
“It wasn’t pretty there for a long time. The first quarter wasn’t great. I mean, they scored 30 there in the first quarter and we had a slow start … We had a lot of good looks, but nothing seemed to drop,” Nowitzki admitted.
Using a “small-ball” lineup early in the second stanza — with Nowitzki playing next to reserves J.J. Barea, Jason Terry, Corey Brewer and Shawn Marion — the Mavericks attempted to fast-break their way back into the game. But Love and the Wolves had other plans, upping their lead to double digits after Nowitzki picked up his third foul.
The Mavs would remain poised, however, fighting back into the game. But despite the hardnosed play of center Brendan Haywood inside in place of Chandler, to go along with point guard Jason Kidd’s perimeter shooting, the Mavericks would still face a 50-48 disadvantage heading into the locker room at the halftime break.
Both teams would hit on 20-of-44 from the floor through two quarters, as Kidd’s nine points on 3-for-4 shooting and 2-of-3 from 3-point range led the Mavericks, while Michael Beasley’s 11 points led all scorers at the midway point. And at the same time Love appeared to be on his way to equaling the record, tallying seven points and eight rebounds through 24 minutes of play.
Carlisle would begin the second half of play with Marion in Stojakovic’s place at small forward. Meanwhile, Nowitzki would make up for lost time, battling through his early foul trouble to spark a mini-run that placed the Mavs in front on the scoreboard. But it wouldn’t be long before Nowitzki was back on the bench after picking up his fourth personal foul, while Love reached the record once he moved into double figures in scoring to go with his work on the glass.
Nowitzki would then look on as his replacement, ex-Timberwolf Brian Cardinal, would go to work, swishing in a trifecta of 3-pointers in the quarter to go along with multiple hustle plays.
“Without Cardinal I don’t think we would have won the game,” Carlisle said with high praise for the reserve big man. “His activity, rebounds, loose balls, deflections and shotmaking completely changed the game around, because we were down.”
“Tonight, I was open a little bit on the 3-point arc and I was able to make some shots,” Cardinal simply said. “It was exciting. We obviously never want to see Dirk get in trouble, but I think we have a deep team that can step in for people.”
Still, the veteran sharpshooter’s offensive production and tenacious defense wasn’t enough to combat a Minnesota onslaught, as the Wolves used a 15-0 run to open up a double-digit lead, before Nowitzki returned to the floor and trimmed the deficit to 80-73 heading to the final 12 minutes of play on a timely 3-pointer.
“That was a big shot for us. It kind of changed the momentum,” Nowitzki said. “Then we really picked it up at the beginning of the fourth, got the lead and never looked back from there.”
The Mavericks would then come out of their huddle strong to begin the fourth period, as Stojakovic and Nowitzki shot the Mavs to a slight lead with a 12-2 run to open the final quarter. Barea would take matters into his own hands, running the point to perfection and knocking down outside shots as the Mavs tried to put some distance between themselves and the Wolves.
“We caught a group early fourth quarter that got something going,” Carlisle said. “We changed the lineup a little bit and I think the game slowed down a little bit. And we got more active, which we needed to.”
Still, the Wolves would keep battling, as Beasley singlehandedly shot his team back into the game, slicing the Dallas advantage to just one, 94-93, with 3:21 remaining. The two teams would then exchange heavyweight punches along with the lead, until Terry found nothing but the bottom of the net on a 3-pointer from the wing to end his quiet night.
“We don’t panic, we’ve seen it all — being up one or being down two or three with a minute left,” Kidd said. “[Terry] probably didn’t have the best night. He’s been playing extremely well, he’s been off the charts. So, he had a down night, but it was up to him or Dirk to make a big shot and they did that tonight.”
The Mavs would then finish the Wolves off at the charity stripe, knocking home shots at the foul line to conclude a hard-earned victory.
Battling foul trouble all night, Nowitzki still finished with a game-high 25 points on 7-of-12 shooting. Kidd pitched in 13 points to go with his nine assists. Meanwhile, Cardinal added 12 points after hitting 4-of-8 from behind the arc.
“I don’t remember the last time he played significant minutes, it’s been awhile. So, for him to keep himself ready and go in there, make four threes, make plays defensive and just play the heck out of the game, it tells you what kind of a pro he is,” Carlisle said of Cardinal.
“He was huge for us, he won the ballgame,” Kidd added. “He changed the whole rhythm offensively and defensively for us. He gave us a spark and that’s what we’ve done. There’s always been somebody to come off the bench and give us life, especially on a back-to-back after a tough loss last night at home. So, he was huge. He got going there and had a couple of heat-checks, but that’s the beauty of the game. When you get going like that, you cheer your teammate on and he stepped up big.”
Terry registered 11 points to make it four Mavericks in double figures.
On a historic night, Love tallied up 23 points and 17 rebounds, as the Mavericks had to settle for simply breaking the All-Star forward’s three-game streak of 20-20 nights.
“It’s a joke that he’s doing it so easily. Unless he gets hurt, I don’t see anybody stopping it any time soon,” Carlisle said of Love’s double-double streak.
Beasley added 20 points, but the Mavericks finished the night outshooting the Wolves, 45 percent to 44 percent, making up for Minnesota’s slight 45-44 rebounding edge. The Mavericks also secured the win despite allowing the Wolves to score 23 points off their 16 turnovers.
The team will now journey to New Orleans for a Southwest Division matchup with the Hornets on Wednesday night, perhaps facing a squad without All-Star point guard Chris Paul.
The Hornets’ floor general suffered a concussion Sunday night against Cleveland and did not play in an 85-77 loss to Chicago on Monday night. Meanwhile, Chandler expects to be able to give it a go against his former team after sitting out three games.
“I’m feeling that I should be able to go Wednesday,” Chandler said.
The Mavs and Hornets split the first two games of the season series, after both squads escaped with narrow victories on their own floors during a home-and-home series back in November.
Note: The Mavericks-Hornets matchup Wednesday night will tip off at 7 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest.
The Mavericks return to the American Airlines Center on Thursday night, hosting Carmelo Anthony and the new-look New York Knicks. Tip-off for that game will be at 8:30 pm. CT, airing nationally on TNT and 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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