DALLAS — It was a new day.
Returning home from a 3-1 road trip that ended with a heartbreaking 92-91 loss in San Antonio on Thursday, the Dallas Mavericks immediately were presented with a new opportunity as they hit the American Airlines Center floor on the second night of a back-to-back armed with the most remaining home games of any team in the NBA.
Beginning a stretch of eight of nine games on their own hardwood, the Mavs also looked to build a home-court advantage while spitting the bitter taste of Thursday's loss out of their mouths. But, despite being encouraged by the fact that the Cleveland Cavaliers would be without reigning rookie of the year Kyrie Irving (sprained left shoulder), the Mavs were dismayed when coach Rick Carlisle announced before the game that four-time All-Star Shawn Marion's injury condition had been upgraded after a MRI revealed a strained left calf and not what was originally believed to be a contusion.
Still, even with Marion missing his fifth straight game, the Mavericks (31-34) would manage to get back on track while beginning their home-heavy schedule on a positive note, battling back from a slow start to claim a 96-86 victory.
"A night like tonight, everybody was into it because we knew we needed to win this game," fourth-year guard Rodrigue Beaubois said after leading the Mavs to the victory. "Everybody was hungry to win, and I think that's why we won the game."
Without Marion in the first unit, however, the Mavs would come out the gate slow while Cleveland surged out to a 13-4 start to the night. Carlisle then quickly went to his reserves while looking for a spark.
"I thought we came out a little slow but as expected after a tough game last night," 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki admitted. "It was a tough back-to-back situation, but we fought through it."
Still, led by rookie big man Tyler Zeller, the Cavaliers (22-43) sprinted into the second stanza with a 24-16 advantage while holding the Mavericks to just 7 of 21 from the field in the first 12 minutes of play.
Starting the second period with a 3-pointer by Luke Walton, the Cavaliers jumped out to a double-digit lead in front of the Dallas fans. However, the Mavs would rally behind balanced play and the off-the-bench production of Beaubois, climbing within one on the young guard’s 3-pointer from the wing.
The Cavaliers would then keep the Mavs at bay with an 11-4 run before taking a 46-38 lead into the halftime intermission.
Outshooting the Mavs through the first two quarters, 46.3 percent to 38.6 percent, the Cavaliers jumped out to the advantage at the midway mark led by Zeller’s 10 points and nine rebounds. Meanwhile, Nowitzki did his best to keep the Mavs in the game, scoring six points and snatching down seven boards to make up for 3-of-10 shooting.
Inserting backup big man Brandan Wright into the first unit over center Chris Kaman to open the third quarter, Carlisle looked from more production from his team as the third quarter got underway. Meanwhile, Nowitzki continued to struggle through an off-shooting night as the ball swung to leading scorer O.J. Mayo on the offensive end of the floor.
Point guard Mike James’ feed to veteran big man Elton Brand for the and-one slam then brought the Mavs within one, 54-53, midway through the third. Second-string point guard Darren Collison and rookie Jae Crowder then briefly put the home team in front to complete a 17-4 run, before the two teams exchanged makes from behind the 3-point arc. Shaun Livingston’s buzzer-beating jumper then gave the Cavaliers a 68-67 edge entering the fourth.
"We started off slow. We knew it was going to be a tough game, especially coming off a back-to-back," Collison confessed. "We felt like we gave all our effort last night and this one was more of a mental game. We made a few mistakes early on, but the most important thing is that we got the win."
A floater in the line by Wright gave the Mavs the upper hand as the fourth period got going. The Mavs continued to step up after that behind a backcourt of Collison and Beaubois, speeding up the tempo and sprinting to a 75-70 advantage on Wright’s two-handed flush with 9:48 left on the clock to close the Cavaliers out.
“It’s a big energy game. Because of us playing last night and having a difficult loss and those kinds of things, we struggled early. We struggled partly because we couldn’t [hit any shots] on offense. Defensively, they were getting momentum into their offense and they were scoring. Nights like tonight, you’ve just got to keep finishing until you find something that works and is effective. The quickness was good. Their size hurt us early, but then we were more aggressive in the second half and I think that was the difference,” Carlisle explained after the smaller lineup seized control of the game.
The backcourt’s perimeter play and Wright’s interior presence at both ends of the court took over matters from there, sparking a 17-4 start to the fourth to gain a double-digit lead. The Mavs wouldn’t look back from there, locking in on the defensive end before Beaubois’ baseline drive and slam and Nowitzki’s 3 put the home team ahead 91-79 with 2:05 left to play.
Sixth man Vince Carter’s deep triple then closed the door on the Cavaliers for good as new addition Chris Wright provided the final Dallas points.
Leading five Mavs in double figures, Beaubouis scored 18 points while hitting 6 of 10 from the field and 3 of 5 from 3-point range.
“I thought this was Roddy’s best game of the year by far and it was certainly the most timely," Carlisle said of the guard's performance. “We knew we were going to have to go deep tonight to be able to win.”
"When he put me into the game I just tried to be aggressive and step forward at that moment," Beaubois said after Carlisle continued to trust in the sparkplug off the bench. "I just tried to play hard and help the team get the win."
Collison and Wright added 13 points apiece as Nowitzki did the same despite his 6-of-17 shooting night. Mayo added 10 points in the first unit.
Rookie Dion Waiters led the Cavaliers with a game-high 21 points on 9-of-19 shooting, but the Mavs' 50 percent from the field bettered Cleveland's 43.6 percent. Without their leading rebounder, the Mavs also added a 46-39 advantage on the glass led by Crowder's season-high 14 boards. Dallas collected a 46-36 margin in points in the paint and a 19-4 separation in fast-break points as well to sprint to the win.
Note: The Mavs will now take Saturday off before returning to action Sunday against the reigning Western Conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder leads the season series 3-0. The game will air locally at 6:30 p.m. CT on Fox Sports Southwest. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS (6287) or by visiting Mavs.com.
"They're tough. You know, they're one of the best teams in the league. We all know that," Nowitzki said while looking ahead to the Thunder. "We obviously wish we'd have 'Trix [Marion], who's our best perimeter defender, but it looks like he's going to be out for a minute."
Mavs Fans: Are you hopping on the beard bandwagon? Show your support and make your pledge today!
DALLAS — After ending a successful 3-1 road trip on a disappointing note, the Dallas Mavericks return to the friendly confines of the American Airlines Center for a stretch of eight out of their next nine games at home.
Snatching the first three games of their road trip and scoring the final seven points of Thursday night’s nationally-televised matchup against San Antonio before eventually falling to a 92-91 defeat as sixth man Vince Carter’s 3-pointer missed at the buzzer, the Mavericks (30-34) will have little time to wallow over their setback before beginning a stretch of four games in five nights.
Still, with the loss lingering in their mouths, the Mavs admit that they will also have little margin for error over the final 18 games if they’re going to remain in the playoff race, entering Friday night three games back of the Los Angeles Lakers for the Western Conference’s eighth and final postseason spot.
“On the road in San Antonio against the best team in the NBA with an opportunity to win, that's what we want. We got a shot, but for me personally it's not good enough,” Carter said after seeing his potential game-winning 3 rim out. “I pride myself on being fearless and not afraid to take the big shot. I mean, I'm going to hold my head up anyway, but it just doesn't sit well with me. It's never sat well with me. I feel like that's my job. Granted I've been in this position many times and have missed a game-winning shot and been able to bounce back, but I still want to get the job done because that's what I'm supposed to do."
"That's been kind of the motto all year. We're right there and just can't get over the hump," 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki added. "It's a tough loss. In this building, you're right there and you walk away with a L. ... That's a game we need to have to really make it close and make it a race, and we came up short."
Fortunately for the Mavs’ sake their home-heavy stretch begins with a Cleveland Cavaliers team that travels to Dallas minus its top player as last season’s rookie of the year, Kyrie Irving, could miss the remainder of the season due to a sprained left shoulder.
And with the Mavs trying to shake off their recent disappointment by slicing into their three-game deficit in the standings, it will immediately be time to once again start playing winning basketball as they attempt to bounce back on their home floor.
"You know, we had a four-game winning streak. Now, we're going back home after this tough road trip and we've got to get right back on the horse again and get this bad taste out our mouths right now, because we had a great opportunity to win but we didn't. We've got something to play for. We've got to play inspired ball still against Cleveland at home," point guard Mike James said while quickly turning his attention to the next game.
Including a 103-95 road win in Cleveland on Nov. 17, the Mavericks have won four of five in the overall series between the two teams and nine of 11 when the Cavaliers (22-42) travel to Dallas. That trend may have to continue without four-time All-Star Shawn Marion, however, who could miss his fifth straight outing Friday due to a left calf contusion.
Marion will be reevaluated by team physician Dr. T.O. Souryal on Friday after injuring the calf in the first quarter of a 112-108 home win over Houston on March 6 before finishing the night with 22 points. And if the do-it-all forward is once again not at Mavs coach Rick Carlisle’s disposal, his teammates may have to continue to collectively make up for his production against a Cleveland team that is just 2-9 this season when visiting Western opponents.
“We don’t have anybody that can replace what Shawn does,” Carlisle said. “There just aren’t any 6-8 guys that can guard point guards or centers and can do the playmaking or running and all the different things that he can do. … He’s been our leading rebounder all year, so it’s a loss and it’s a hit we’ve got to take here. You know, he’s going to meet with Dr. Souryal and we’ll see what’s what. We felt that he was going to be better at this point and time, so there’s some concern there.”
Note: The Mavs return home to start a stretch of eight of their next nine games at the American Airlines Center, hosting the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday in the second half of a back-to-back.
The Mavs lead the season series 1-0 after a 103-95 win in Cleveland on Nov. 17. The game will air locally at 7:30 p.m. CT on Fox Sports Southwest. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS (6287) or by visiting Mavs.com.
Mavs Fans: Are you hopping on the beard bandwagon? Show your support and make your pledge today!