Inside Report: Mavericks-Suns recap — Kidd, cold-shooting Mavs eclipse Suns to run win streak to four
Earl K. Sneed recaps the action from the U.S. Airways Center, where Mavericks point guard Jason Kidd's 8-0 run to close the game and Dallas' second-half defense was enough to edge out the Suns for a fourth straight win.
PHOENIX — Lost in the shuffle of the Mavericks’ 94-77 win Saturday night in Utah to begin a six-game road trip victoriously was a historic feat for forward Shawn Marion.
Marion, a four-time All-Star, became just the 118th player to surpass 15,000 points for his career in the fourth quarter of the win, posting 13 points on the night. And after asking Marion to play many different roles in the last two seasons for the Mavericks — from starter to defensive stopper to key reserve to starter once again — coach Rick Carlisle made sure that he made mention of the career milestone as the high-flying player appropriately nicknamed “the Matrix” prepared to lead his current squad against his former team, the Phoenix Suns, one night after joining the exclusive club.
“That it happened [Saturday night] without much fanfare was very disappointing to me,” Carlisle said of Marion’s accomplishment. “I found out about it this morning and that’s a tremendous achievement. And Shawn’s done it so many different ways. His game has just sort of continued to grow throughout his career. And for us, we’ve asked him to do a lot of different things and he’s been very effective for us the same way he’s been for other teams…The thing that’s clear to me in my experience with him now almost two years is he’s into winning. And he’s a proud guy, but he wants to win. And look at his career, he’s been a winning player everywhere he’s been.”
“I think it comes in the situations and the teams that you are a part of and what your role is,” Marion added. “Everywhere I’ve been it’s been different phases of my career, and right now we have a great team here and everybody’s role sometimes it changes nightly. We have a very deep team here and we’ve got a lot of guys capable of having big nights. We just take it as it comes, and as long as you’re out here having fun and competing then the ultimate goal is to win a championship. And that’s what it boils down to at the end of the day.”
With Marion set to play his role while adding to his growing career points total, the Mavericks stepped into the U.S. Airways Center looking to move to 3-0 against the Suns, also hoping to run their winning streak to four.
But this night would belong to another former Sun, point guard Jason Kidd, as the veteran floor general‘s crucial 8-0 run down the stretch would be all the Mavericks (52-21) would need to extend their winning streak, handing Phoenix a third loss with a 91-83 victory to move to 2-0 on their longest road trip of the season.
Marion remained in the Mavericks’ starting lineup for the third straight game, joining Kidd, second-year pro Rodrigue Beaubois and forward Dirk Nowitzki and center Tyson Chandler in the frontcourt. Meanwhile, the Suns (36-36) made an expected lineup change, inserting center Marcin Gortat and swingman Jared Dudley into their first unit in favor of Robin Lopez and Vince Carter.
But the opening quarter would belong completely to the Suns, while the Mavericks’ recent spell of turnovers continued to hamper a stagnant offense. And with the Mavericks’ carelessness with the ball compounded by a stretch of 10 straight missed shots, it didn’t take long for Gortat and ex-Maverick Steve Nash to elevate their team to a lead as large as 12 before heading into the second period with a 26-17 advantage.
Gortat’s 12 first-quarter points on 6-of-9 from the floor powered the Suns to the early lead, while the Mavericks connected on just 5-of-25 at the other end.
“The first quarter was terrible,” Chandler empathetically said. “We allowed them to get layups, we allowed Gortat to get going. They got everything they wanted. They fast-breaked on us, we turned the ball over. I mean, we basically were shooting ourselves in the foot. We made an adjustment from that.”
The Mavericks hoped to inch their way back into the game behind Nowitzki’s scoring and a scrambling defense. But the fast-breaking Suns would push the lead back to 10, causing Carlisle to earn a technical foul after expressing his frustration to the officials.
The Mavs wouldn’t fold, however, climbing to within three behind reserve forward Peja Stojakovic’s instant scoring off the bench and by attacking the offensive glass. Still, the visiting team went into the locker room trailing 49-44 at the break, unable to completely bounce back from a rough start.
Both teams surrendered eight turnovers in the first half. And after Gortat went scoreless in the second stanza, Josh Childress’ 10 points off the Suns’ bench was still enough to keep Nowitzki’s nine points and Dallas’ 13 offensive rebounds from wiping the Mavs’ deficit away. And despite a much more efficient second quarter, the Mavericks were still outshot through 24 minutes of action, 51.2 percent to 32.6 percent.
“On nights when the shots aren’t going in, hey, we need 12 guys pulling together over there and keeping everybody energized. And that’s exactly what happened,” Carlisle explained.
The Mavericks would begin the third quarter with the first four points to creep to within one. Meanwhile, Beaubois would rack up three fouls in the early minutes of the period to bring his total to four. The young guard would try to play through the foul trouble, draining two perimeter jumpers from behind the 3-point arc to keep the Mavericks within an arm’s reach. But a fifth foul would send the 23-year-old to the bench, leading the Mavericks to turn to Chandler inside.
“[Chandler] has been the heart of the team all year around the basket and, again, he gave us a presence at both ends,” the coach explained.
The 7-footer would do his best, recording his 18th double-double of the season in the process, but it would be backup point guard JJ. Barea who would knot the game at 63-all with a driving and-1 score. However, the Suns were still able to crawl to a 67-65 edge entering the final period.
After Nowitzki opened up the scoring in the fourth quarter, sixth man Jason Terry shook off his previous struggles and rained in a 3 to give the Mavericks a 70-69 advantage, their first since 6-4. Terry would swish home another triple a short time later to give the Mavs some breathing room, but only to watch the Suns answer with a 6-0 run.
Terry wouldn’t have to singlehandedly power the Mavericks’ offensive attack, though, after Kidd connected on a long deuce that would be confirmed after a review midway through the period to keep the two squads deadlocked.
That’s when Carlisle once again turned to a three-guard lineup, as he did the night before, with Kidd joining Barea and Terry in the backcourt next to Nowitzki and Chandler. Battling his own struggles, Nowitzki would trade scores with Dudley as the two teams continued to battle. That’s when the 38-year-old Kidd decided to intervene, swishing a 3 to beat the shot clock and giving his team an 86-83 edge with just 1:11 left.
“I had no choice, J.J. gave me the ball with one second on the shot clock,” Kidd said of the play. “So, that helped, because I didn’t have to think about it.”
With the scoreboard malfunctioning, the Mavericks would turn to Kidd again, and the future Hall of Famer would gladly oblige, finding nothing but the bottom of the net on another 3 to put his team up six, 89-83, with 44.4 ticks remaining.
“It just goes to show you how close the game was,” Carlisle said, “because that first 3 he hit beat the clock by maybe a hundredth of a second. And his level of concentration to step into that shot and hit all net is phenomenal. And then the other one Dirk just got in a bad way, he circled around and gave [Kidd] an outlet, and there’s no tougher shot in basketball than a 3-point shot if you’re right-handed moving to your left and circling around. I mean, it’s just very difficult. So, it was two phenomenal shots and then we got a couple of big stops at the end which got us home.”
Kidd would then claim a game-sealing rebound off a Dudley miss, connecting on two free throws at the other end to put the Suns to bed for the night.
The trio of Kidd, Terry and Chandler shared team-high honors with 16 points apiece, while Nowitzki finished with 15 on 6-of-19 shooting. Despite the foul trouble, Beaubois made it five Mavericks in double figures with 10 points in just over 13 minutes.
Still, the Suns outshot the Mavs on the night, 42.5 percent to 38.1 percent. It’s the third time the Mavs have won this season when shooting below 40 percent, coming in the lowest-scoring showdown between Dallas and Phoenix since April of 2002.
“That’s a tribute to our defense that we win that game. If you would have told me before that I’m 6-for-19, ‘Trix [Marion] is 2-for-10, JET [Terry] is like 2-for-30, if you tell me that before the game that we’d still find a way to win then I wouldn’t have believed it,” Nowitzki joked. “Yeah, we won that game with our defense and it’s good to know that we can still do that.”
“This is the way we were playing earlier in the season the last couple of games defensively, and that’s helped us offensively,” Kidd added.
Chandler also grabbed down a season-high tying 18 rebounds to lift the Mavs to a 47-46 rebounding edge.
“When I’m rebounding the ball well and I’m just touching the ball, it seems like I just get in a better rhythm. You can get a rhythm from different things — from taking shots, going to the free throw line, getting a dunk in there. But when I’m rebounding the ball, for whatever reason, it seems like I get in a better rhythm,” Chandler said.
Gortat and Dudley both posted 20 points. But the Mavs also finished with one less turnover than the Suns on the night, surrendering 16 points off their 15 giveaways compared to the 15 points the Dallas team scored off Phoenix’s 16 miscues.
The Mavs will take Monday off before practicing in Phoenix on Tuesday. The team will then head to Los Angeles for a back-to-back against the Clippers and Lakers on Wednesday and Thursday.
“Well, we’re trying to win all the games, and we certainly wanted to get off to a great start,” Carlisle said. “But again, we’re very process-oriented…The work is gonna go on and it’s gonna go on through the rest of this trip, but I’m very happy with the start.”
Note: Before taking on the two-time defending champion L.A. Lakers for a third time on Thursday, the Mavs will try to move to 3-0 in the season series against Rookie of the Year favorite Blake Griffin and the Clippers. Wednesday night’s Clippers-Mavericks matchup will tip off at 9:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest.
The team returns to Dallas to host the Denver Nuggets on April 6. The Nuggets lead the season series 2-1 including a 121-120 win over the Mavs in Denver on Feb. 10. 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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