ATLANTA — Less than 24 hours after limping off their home floor following a 107-101 loss to the reigning Western Conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder, the Dallas Mavericks needed a convenient case of amnesia as they stepped into Philips Arena looking for a different result.
Attempting to avenge a 105-101 home loss at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks back on Feb. 11, the Mavericks looked to get back on track while ending a tough stretch of four games in five nights. They also tried to keep their postseason hopes alive, entering Monday's matchup sitting four games behind the Los Angeles Lakers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.
In order to do so, however, the Mavs would have to manage to make up for two missing contributors in coach Rick Carlisle’s rotation, taking the court for a seventh straight game minus four-time All-Star Shawn Marion (strained left calf) while also hitting the hardwood one night after losing fourth-year guard Rodrigue Beaubois indefinitely due to a left second metacarpal fracture.
Still, the short-handed Mavericks (32-35) would quickly forget about the events of the night before, leaving the Hawks' home hardwood with a 127-113 runaway win thanks to a complete team effort.
"Everybody played really well," Carlisle said after his team came together and bounced back with the win. "When you're in your fourth in five nights and you're on the road, you need a great collective effort. ... We just had even contributions up and down the roster."
"I mean, we're going to fight till the end," 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki said after the victory. "We'll see where it brings us all the way at the end. I think we want to fight every night and not really look at the big picture. We want to win the next game, and that's what we're going to focus on. We're going to leave it all out there. If we really want to make this great run, we've got to have everybody playing well, and I thought everybody did that today."
Without two of his top contributors against an Atlanta team that had won three straight overall while also playing the second game of a back-to-back, Carlisle went back to center Chris Kaman in the starting lineup one night after using veteran big man Elton Brand in the first unit. The move would pay immediate dividends as Kaman’s interior scoring and point guard Mike James’ assault from the outside boosted the Mavericks to an early advantage.
"I felt comfortable tonight and I just had to be patient," Kaman said after regaining the first-string center duties.
Sixth man Vince Carter then took over matters, raining in a couple of 3-pointers as the Mavs took a 34-25 lead into the second stanza.
The separation on the scoreboard would continue to grow early in the second period after backup point guard Darren Collison’s and-one jumper over ex-Mav Devin Harris put the Mavs up 13. Collison would stay on the attack from there, scoring at will against the Atlanta defense while quickly moving into double figures.
"I think our second unit is doing a great job right now of moving the ball, continuing to attack and really coming in there and being a spark," Collison said after leading the effort of the reserves.
Collison then carried the Mavs into the visitors’ locker room with a 68-55 advantage under their belt at the halftime break.
Led by Collison’s 18 first-half points on 8 of 9 from the field, the Mavs’ 63 percent shooting bettered the Hawks’ 56.1 percent at the midway mark. Meanwhile, the Mavericks’ 6-of-8 shooting from behind the arc and 22-13 rebounding edge was more than enough to take control through two quarters.
After Kaman’s accidental tip-in under his own goal to begin the second half, 3-pointers by James and Nowitzki immediately bailed the big man out. A technical foul on Josh Smith with 8:58 left in the third only added to the Mavs’ dominance before Kaman redeemed himself with an aggressive move to the basket off the dribble for a slam.
Leading scorer O.J. Mayo then beat the shot clock with a 3 as the Mavs continued to control the game, despite a technical on Kaman with 4:57 left in the period for arguing with officials. And with Mayo leading the way, the Mavericks slid into the fourth up 98-85.
After failing to get Nowitzki a shot attempt in the fourth quarter of the loss to the Thunder, the Mavs immediately looked in the 7-footer’s direction as the final 12 minutes began to tick away. Nowitzki’s 3-pointer from the wing then showed he was ready to take over if needed, before Collison broke back into the scoring with a jumper to go up 105-87 while forcing an Atlanta timeout with 9:47 remaining.
But it would be a collective effort, and not solely Nowitzki, that would serve as the closer for the Mavs while keeping the Hawks at bay from there. Collison then drained a corner 3-pointer to keep a safe margin between the two squads before the lead reached as much as 21. A short time later Carlisle pulled his main contributors with the game well in hand and just 4:01 still remaining on the game clock.
"They made some runs at us, but we always answered. This has been the year of the unexpected in a lot of ways. ... I just thought our guys came out with a terrific approach tonight. They knew this was going to be a long game against a team that's a very good and underrated team. We gave them that kind of respect and it showed in our effort and energy level," Carlisle later said.
Leading six scorers in double figures, Collison finished with 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting.
"Just playing my game," Collison modestly said when summing up his night. "I think I was able to get going when I got some easy layups. My mid-range started to fall, and my teammates did a good job of screening for me and getting me open. It's not just me, it was my teammates as well."
Meanwhile, Nowitzki filled up the stat sheet with 22 points on 7 of 11 from the field, grabbing six rebounds and dishing out five assists to boot. Mayo added 17 points, Kaman recorded 14 points, Carter pitched in 13 points and Brandan Wright registered 12 points.
Jeff Teague led eight Hawks in double figures with 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting, but the Mavs' 57.3 percent from the field as a team bettered Atlanta's 56 percent. The Mavs also connected on 13 of 22 from behind the 3-point line compared to Atlanta's 8-of-21 shooting from long range.
Dallas ended the game with a 39-31 rebounding edge as well, committing 12 turnovers for 10 Atlanta points while converting the Hawks' 15 giveaways into 19 points.
"It was a great offensive night for us," Nowitzki said. "We almost scored basically 30 or more in in every quarter. We were running, we were shooting the ball and sharing the ball, and it was fun to play. The only problem was the other end of the ball. We couldn't get a stop to save our lives. ... I don't think we're happy with the defensive outing, but offensively this is about as good as we've played all year."
"Well, it was a defensive pillow fight," Carlisle joking added. "Let's be honest. I mean, neither team got much traction defensively, but sometimes games are like that. And when they are, you've got to ring the bell and you've got to put points on the board."
Note: The Mavs will now return home and take Tuesday off. The team returns to action for the start of a six-game homestand Wednesday night against the Brooklyn Nets. The Mavs lead the season series 1-0 after a 98-90 win in Brooklyn on March 1. The game will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest and nationally on ESPN at 7 p.m. CT.
"We've been bouncing back all year. We've had a lot of opportunities to do that unfortunately, but we've got 15 left and we're going to throw the kitchen sink at all 15," Carlisle said while looking ahead to the final 15 games of the regular season. "We've got some home games coming up that are big for us, and so we're going to have to be right and we're going to have to be together.
"We'll take the win and run," he added. "Then we've got an off day tomorrow to regroup and then we've got another important game on Wednesday."
ATLANTA — After leaving their home floor following a 107-101 defeat Sunday against the reigning Western Conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder, things don’ get any easier for the Dallas Mavericks.
Facing an Atlanta Hawks team that has won three straight, the Mavericks (31-35) will again have a daunting task on their hands when they enter Philips Arena on the second night of a back-to-back.
They’ll also likely be down two of their best contributors this season, after four-time All-Star Shawn Marion (strained left calf) missed his sixth straight outing Sunday before the Mavs also lost fourth-year guard Rodrigue Beaubois indefinitely in the first half due to a left second metacarpal fracture.
Still, after falling four games back of the Los Angeles Lakers in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, the Mavs remain focused on the task at hand while looking to avenge a 105-101 home loss to the Hawks (37-29) on Feb. 11.
“We’ve got to continue playing hard, finding ways to stay positive obviously and go out there to win every game that we play,” leading scorer O.J. Mayo matter-of-factly said coming out of the loss to the Thunder.
“Well, they didn’t leave me anymore,” Nowitzki said after the Thunder defense surrounded him in the final period. “Obviously, in transition, they ran right to me. And even when we had some stuff happening on the strong side, they were just hugging me on the weak side and basically saying, ‘We don’t even want him to catch the ball.’ That’s an adjustment a lot of teams make, but I still think we were right there. I don’t think that’s why we lost the game. We were scoring enough there in the fourth, we just couldn’t get any stops anymore. Really, that’s what hurt us.”
“We didn’t do a good job,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle added. “I take responsibility for it. A few times they fouled him before he could get a shot off. He got to the free-throw line two or three times. When they get into all of that switching and denying, sometimes other guys have got to step up and make plays, and we weren’t able to make plays.”
The Mavs will try to lend Nowitzki more support Monday night, looking to end the Hawks’ winning streak while staying alive in the playoff race in the process.
Note: The Mavs will now head out on the road for the second game of a back-to-back, touching down in Atlanta for a second showdown of the season against the Hawks. The Hawks lead the season series 1-0 after a 105-101 win in Dallas on Feb. 11. The game will air locally at 6:30 p.m. CT on Fox Sports Southwest.
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