Recap: Bench play sparks short-handed Mavs to win over Suns
Recap: Mavericks 109 at Suns 99
Bench play sparks short-handed Mavs to win over Suns
PHOENIX — It would have been easy for frustration to begin to set in for the Dallas Mavericks and coach Rick Carlisle after two controversial endings to begin a four-game road trip.
But that’s not Carlisle’s nature.
After last-second losses at Portland and Golden State to begin their road trip, the Mavericks returned to action on the second night of a back-to-back while looking to improve to 3-0 this season against the Phoenix Suns. And with his team in need of motivation while playing for a second straight night without center Chris Kaman (concussion) and 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki, as he battles a strained right adductor injury, Carlisle reminded his players that there’s still work to be done, despite the final verdicts in the previous two outings.
“An NBA season is a marathon, man. It’s long,” Carlisle said. “You’ve got to chip away and chip away. It’s like that saying about chipping away at the rock, ‘You guys have got to chip away, chip away until that sucker cracks.’ And, you know, we’re gonna keep chipping. No one’s going to lose any enthusiasm about this, because this is about getting better. And as we get better, you know, we’ll do a better job of closing and do a better job of winning games.”
His players were listening.
Those encouraging words from their coach would be just what the Mavericks (20-27) would need to begin trending in the right direction, downing the Suns (16-31) for a third time after a 109-99 win.
But the Mavericks would face some early adversity following leading scorer O.J. Mayo’s floater to open the scoring, immediately falling behind thanks to the Suns’ 8-0 run before back-to-back 3-pointers by point guard Darren Collison briefly settled the visiting team down. Eight-time All-Star Vince Carter and rookie big man Bernard James then gave the Mavs a spark off the bench, tying the game on James’ and-one putback after Carter’s drive.
Still, despite hitting 12-of-22 from the field, the Mavs trailed 31-29 after one, in large part due to six turnovers in the opening period.
The Mavs’ turnovers continued to pile up in the second stanza while Shannon Brown began to assert himself off the Suns’ bench. Somehow, however, the Mavs would manage to tie the game at 50-all late in the period behind Mayo’s second 3-pointer of the half. The two teams then went into their respective locker rooms knotted at 54-all at the midway mark.
Goran Dragic’s 14 points paced the Suns in the first 24 minutes of play, while Mayo, Collison and Carter combined to score 32 points on 11-of-21 shooting. And despite outshooting the Suns, 46.5 percent to 42.6 percent, the Mavs found themselves in a dogfight after committing 12 turnovers in the first half.
“We talked about that at halftime,” Mayo explained. “We had 12 turnovers at halftime and we had got back to even and didn’t play a very good half of basketball. So we knew going into the second half that on the road, not playing a very good first half and having a tie ball game, that we just needed to keep our energy, our effort and just our engagement on the game as a whole and we’d have a chance to win.”
Looking for a spark, Carlisle began the second half with rookie Jae Crowder occupying the small forward position ahead of starter Dahntay Jones. The Mavs then grabbed their first lead since 2-0 on Elton Brand’s jumper to go in front 61-60. But the Suns immediately answered with an 11-0 spurt to regain the momentum, while the Mavs missed their next eight shots.
A 13-4 Dallas run then brought the Mavs to within one, 75-74, entering the fourth.
Coming alive in the second half off the bench, big man Brandan Wright lifted the Mavs to the lead with a hoop to open the fourth period as the teams continued to jostle. Carter then swished in a 3 from the wing, giving the Mavs their biggest lead of the night to that point while going up 84-81 with 8:44 remaining.
Meanwhile, the Mavs continued to keep their miscues in check after conquering their first-half turnovers, before getting in the penalty while forcing a fifth team foul on the Suns with 6:53 left to play. Crowder’s 3 then put the visitors up 92-85 midway through the period as the Mavericks tried to pull away.
“Cutting down on turnovers was the key to the game, particularly in the second half,” Carlisle concluded. “We had 12 in the first half. That’s too many. You can’t win on the road turning the ball over 12 times at the half. There’s no way. So the guys did a much better job. Our execution was better, our defense was better, our rebounding was better, and so we were able to finally get a lead and build on it a little bit.”
Led by Mayo’s 20 points on 7-of-19 shooting and 2-for-3 from 3-point range, the Mavs finished with six scorers in double figures. Collison filled up the stat sheet, scoring 19 points, grabbing six rebounds and dishing out six assists, while Marion added a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Carter added 17 points, Crowder pitched in 13 points and Wright posted 11 points for the reserves, as the Mavs finished with a 52-25 edge in bench scoring.
“I think it was a little bit of everything,” Marion said of the win. “I think everybody was on the same page, and we made sure that we got good looks down on the other end and made them pay when they made mistakes.”
Off the Suns’ bench, Brown led the way with 20 points. But the short-handed Mavs finished the night outshooting the Suns, 45.5 percent to 42.7 percent, in addition to a 51-46 rebounding edge and 12 total blocked shots with four each coming from Marion and Brand. The Mavs also committed just three turnovers in the second half to bring their total to 15 on the night for 10 Phoenix points, scoring 16 points off the Suns’ 13 giveaways.
“We had some turnovers early, but late in the game I think we took care of the ball, made the right plays and we were hitting shots. When we’re doing that, we’re able to execute and feel good about ourselves,” Carter concluded.
The Mavericks will now conclude their road trip Monday night in Oklahoma City, looking to avenge two overtime losses to the reigning Western Conference champion Thunder. The game will air locally Monday night on Fox Sports Southwest at 7 p.m. CT.
“We don’t take anything for granted,” Carlisle said while looking forward. “You know, you just can’t ever in this league, and we’ve got to keep chipping.”