Recap: Despite injuries, Mavs outshine Suns in thrilling road win
Earl K. Sneed reports from Phoenix and recaps the Dallas Mavericks' thrilling victory Thursday night in a nationally-televised matchup against the Suns, as the Mavs snatched the middle game of their three-game road trip.
Recap: Mavericks 97 at Suns 94
Despite injuries, Mavs outshine Suns in thrilling road win
Understandably alarmed by the Mavericks’ 22 turnovers, which led to 26 Clippers points as the Dallas team began its three-game road trip, Carlisle also made it clear that two things were missing from his players in the lopsided loss: toughness and competitiveness.
The coach then led his team into the U.S. Airways Center in search of a much-needed road win against the Phoenix Suns, before making a change to his starting lineup to add both toughness and competitiveness to the first unit. And despite the lineup change and injuries to two of his main contributors, the coach would see just how tough his team truly is, as the Mavs improved to 9-10 on the season after a hard-fought 97-94 win.
“We played one of our strongest-willed games of the year,” Carlisle said of the victory. “Difficult situation losing time coming off the back-to-back and a rough one last night, but everybody really played with a lot of heart and a lot of guts. It was really a war of attrition out there with the injuries and all the stuff going on, but everybody hung in and we found a way, and it’s a huge win for us.”
“Coach isn’t asking us to do anything we can’t do. He’s asking us to be tough and play hard and be competitive, and that’s what it comes down to. But everybody stepped up tonight and we got a big road win,” backup big man Brandan Wright added. "After last night, it’s always tough to get that second one on a back-to-back. And after getting beat that bad on national TV, it was good to come out here to get another opportunity to win on national TV again."
Inserting small forward Dahntay Jones and big man Elton Brand at center to bolster a front line that already featured four-time All-Star Shawn Marion, Carlisle continued to use the backcourt of 38-year-old Derek Fisher and leading scorer O.J. Mayo. The Mavs then looked to bring an end to their three-game road losing streak entering the night.
But the new-look lineup would struggle from the opening tipoff, falling behind 11-1 out of the gates after missing the first five shots of the night. The Mavs would settle down, however, behind the play of their reserves. And with backup big man Chris Kaman pitching in six of his team’s 14 bench points, the Mavs found themselves even with the Suns after one quarter of play at 23-all.
Led by Wright and reserve point guard Darren Collison, the Mavs would quickly assume their first lead of the night at 26-25 early in the second stanza. The Suns (7-13) would again begin to pull away, though, before Mayo took charge for the Mavericks with an array of shots on the offensive end to keep the two teams even on the scoreboard.
Still, with Markieff Morris dominating the interior, the Suns surged ahead to take a 44-40 edge at the halftime intermission to overshadow Mayo’s 10 first-half points to lead all scorers.
Led by Mayo and Kaman, the Mavericks outshot the Suns through the first two quarters, 41.5 percent to 40.9 percent. But the Suns’ 24-14 margin in points in the paint and 15-10 separation in second-chance points paced the home team to the slight lead, bolstered by a 25-21 rebounding advantage.
Looking to ride the hot hand, Carlisle again made a change to his lineup to start the second half, sitting Brand in favor of Kaman. The strategy would work for the Mavericks as the 7-footer continued to find success inside, while Marion and Mayo extended helping hands to power the team to full control of the scoreboard.
With Marion sidelined with a strained right groin, however, it would be Mayo that would catch fire from the outside during a 21-2 Dallas run while the Suns’ offense grew stagnant. And after the Mavs went 9-of-11 from the field during the run to lead by as much as 15, the visiting team escaped into the fourth with a 69-62 margin under its belt.
Despite their hot shooting during the dominant third quarter, the Mavs led by just four, 71-67, with 10:54 remaining after a score by Sebastian Telfair. The Mavericks would then take another hit when Kaman came down with a left ankle sprain from a fall under the basket, limping to the sideline before heading to the locker room himself to end his night after stepping on Marcin Gortat’s foot while battling for a rebound.
Still, with Wright assuming Kaman’s scoring duties in the paint, the Mavericks would maintain the upper hand, regaining a double-digit lead at 81-71 midway through the last period.
“I felt a little rusty in the beginning, but as I played more and more I started feeling real good,” Wright said after seeing significant time in Wednesday’s loss for the first time since Nov. 24 in a 115-89 home loss to the L.A. Lakers. “I started feeling like my old self again and then guys go down and coach rolled with me all the way till the end, so I had to step up.”
“Tonight, [Wright] was going to get the first shot of those bigs on the bench and he responded tremendously well,” Carlisle added. “And it was difficult for him, because he had to play about a 15-minute straight stretch to end the game, which is difficult to do.”
Wright’s steal of Luis Scola then led to a clear-path foul on Goran Dragic, sending Collison to the line for two free throws to put the Mavs up 85-80 with 1:58 remaining. But after a 3-pointer by Morris answered Wright’s tip-in, a Dallas turnover and foul by Collison in the backcourt sent Shannon Brown to the line, where he calmly tied the game at 87-all with 48.5 ticks left for the Mavs to respond.
Out of a timeout, Carlisle drew up a play for Mayo, who patiently awaited his opportunity before draining a contested mid-range jumper to put his team up two with 34.6 seconds still on the clock.
“You know, I was just trying to get into a good area where I could elevate over Bassy [Telfair], a good defender with his hands and feet. I went in there one time and got a charge, another time and got an altared shot by Morris, so I just wanted to get into an area around the foul line and try to elevate over him,” Mayo said of the sequence.
Collison then cashed in with two free throws with 19.3 seconds left after Dragic misfired on a drive around Mayo, leading to a foul by Brown as the two teams then exchanged free throws. But the Mavs still weren’t out of the woods after Brown connected on a 3-pointer before fouling Collison with 3.2 seconds left. And after the lead guard connected on two clutch free throws to make it 8-for-8 for the Mavs to close the game, the Suns’ last attempt would come up short after Brown misfired from 3 as the final buzzer sounded.
“You know, I got better. In the past, when that situation came up, I had missed one. So, I just want to make sure I get better and better as my career goes on. I had an opportunity today to ice the game with free throws and I did it,” a confident Collison said after going 10-of-12 from the line on the night.
“We got up 15 and then they made a run to tie it up, but Vince [Carter] and Darren made key free throws. Those guys get all the credit," Wright said while praising his teammates. "They made all the free throws and didn’t miss one. I think all of them were straight net, too. So, if you go down the stretch and do that under pressure and on the road, too, it’s always huge.”
Leading five Mavericks in double figures with 23 points was Mayo, who finished with 9-of-17 shooting and 3-of-5 from 3. Meanwhile, Wright reached a season-high with 16 points, matching Collison’s point total while Kaman added 15 points and Marion pitched in 10 points before sustaining injuries.
“Everybody really manned up and just played big,” Carlisle said of his team’s effort. “I thought Collison played a great game. All things considered, he played his best game here, ’cause he played a great floor game and he mixed aggression scoring with playmaking and defense. And we’re in a good position now with our point position, because we have different options of guys that can finish games. Fish had a big night last night and Darren picked him up tonight. And O.J. had a huge game. The shot he hit to go up two was a monster play, and then hey, we’re going to keep working to eliminate mistakes. We still missed blockouts, we still turned it over … and it’s tough in this league when you do that and you shoot yourself in the foot. But we’ve got good guys and they really stuck together tonight and it was good for us.”
Dragic and Morris led five Suns in double figures with 15 points apiece, but the Mavericks finished the night outshooting Phoenix, 47.4 percent to 40 percent. The Mavs also collected a 44-42 rebounding edge and a 20-9 advantage in fast-break points, making up for the 20 points the Suns scored off 17 Dallas turnovers.
“I win is a win for us right now,” Carter concluded. “I mean, it doesn't really matter how pretty or ugly it may be, we needed it and we needed to bounce back after an ugly loss. I was just glad to see everybody fight and play through it. … For us to respond like that and for guys to take advantage of their opportunity, we’re going to be just fine.”
With Marion's and Kaman’s injuries not believed to be serious and both listed as day-to-day, the Mavs will now take Friday off to travel before concluding their road trip Saturday night in Houston against the Southwest Division rival Rockets. It is the first of four meetings between the two teams this season. The game will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest at 7 p.m. CT.