Recap: Late-game heroics lift surging Mavs over Hornets
Recap: Mavericks 104 at Hornets 100
Late-game heroics lift surging Mavs over Hornets
NEW ORLEANS — After the Dallas Mavericks made an unexpected shakeup Thursday at the trade deadline, sending defensive stopper Dahntay Jones to Atlanta in exchange for sharpshooter Anthony Morrow, both the team and its fan base couldn’t wait to see the franchise’s newest addition in action.
But, with Morrow back in Dallas receiving his physical while his new team played without his services Friday night in New Orleans, the Mavericks would have to wait at least one more game to see the four-year pro and 42.5-percent career 3-point shooter donning royal blue.
Still, after teaming with Morrow in Golden State during the 2008-09 season when the shooting assassin led the NBA in 3-point percentage as a rookie at 46.7 percent, backup big man Brandan Wright was able to shed a little light on the newcomer to the Mavs’ locker room.
“He’s a great 3-point shooter. That’s his bread and butter,” Wright said of Morrow. “He’s a great teammate and a hard worker. He’s always going to give you his all, so he’ll fit right in. … That’s what he does, make shots. We expect him to make shots here, and I know he’s looking forward to the opportunities he’s going to get.”
However, with both Morrow and center Chris Kaman (concussion) back in Dallas, the Mavs would need someone else to make shots as they stepped onto the hardwood at New Orleans Arena looking to end a dubious trend, after losing nine of their previous 10 meetings on the Hornets’ home floor. And just when it looked like that trend would continue, the Mavericks (25-29) staged a late-game comeback for the ages, ending the game on an 8-0 run to claim a 104-100 victory.
“For us, it’s been tough to win anywhere on the road,” 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki said of the win. “We’ve been losing close games, we’ve been up in the fourth quarter by double digits and finding a way to lose, so it just felt amazing to actually win one. I don’t care who it is, who the opponent is, we needed one of those.”
After scoring a season-high amount of points in any quarter this season with 42 in the first period of Wednesday night’s 111-96 home win over Orlando, the Mavericks again hoped to jump out to a fast start while hitting their first four shots, holding the Hornets (19-37) without a basket on their first five attempts from the field at the other end. Meanwhile, Nowitzki quickly assumed the Mavs’ scoring responsibilities, before a 3-pointer from the top of the key by sixth man Vince Carter put the visiting team up 27-16.
Carter’s circus and-one score then brought an end to New Orleans’ 8-0 run to get back into the game, passing Gary Payton (21,813) for 28th place on the league’s all-time scoring list in the process. And after Eric Gordon’s 12 first-quarter points kept the Hornets hanging around, the Mavs escaped into the second stanza with a 35-29 edge.
Following a 15-for-23 shooting quarter in the first, the Mavs looked to stay on the attack as the second period got underway. Instead, the Hornets would continue to inch closer, trailing by just one midway through the quarter. Gordon then found Al-Farouq Aminu inside for a slam to put the Hornets up one, 43-42, before Carter quickly returned fire with a 3 to settle his team down.
Still, with Gordon continuing to carve up the Dallas defense, the Hornets surged ahead by as much as seven before taking a 58-53 advantage into the halftime break.
Led by Gordon’s 20 points in the first 24 minutes of action, the Hornets seized the lead despite getting outshot through the midway mark, 46.5 percent to 43.8 percent. Carter, meanwhile, led the Mavs with 16 points off the bench.
“We felt at halftime this was a mirror image of the last game,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said while reminiscing over a 99-96 loss at home to the Hornets on Jan. 5. “We had a seven-point lead at the half last game and they battled back and beat us. And I told these guys we were down five and we’ve got to do the same thing. Sure enough we were very determined and was able to scratch it out.”
Opening up the third with a shooting barrage of his own, Nowitzki quickly put the Mavs back in front on a 3-pointer from the top of the key in the midst of a 6-0 start to the second half. The Hornets immediately responded led by No. 1 overall draft pick Anthony Davis and big man Jason Smith off the bench, until a transition feed from leading scorer O.J. Mayo to four-time All-Star Shawn Marion for the slam gave the Mavs a 72-71 edge with 3:46 left in the third to spark an 11-4 run.
However, after Ryan Anderson’s 3-pointer to beat the third-quarter buzzer, the Mavs held just an 83-79 edge entering the fourth.
After deferring to his teammates, Nowitzki went back to work, collecting an offensive rebound and then spinning to his left for a score before feeding a cutting Jae Crowder to go up 89-85. Nowitzki then capitalized at the charity stripe, connecting on all three free throws after Anderson fouled him beyond the arc to go up 94-89 with 7:10 left to close.
But once again the Hornets would charge back on their home floor, tying the game at 94-all on Anderson’s tip-in. Smith would take it front there, splitting a pair of free throws before hitting a jumper to put New Orleans up three.
Following a Nowitzki jumper to pull within one, Anderson again had the answer, draining a 3-pointer to extend the Hornets’ lead to four with 55.5 seconds left on the clock.
“When Anderson hits that 3 and we’re down four, I just knew we'd pull it off. But, like it is in this league, you need to get stops down the stretch and somebody needs to find a way to get big baskets,” Nowitzki foreshadowed.
The Mavs then refused to go away, sandwiching a defensive stand by swinging the ball around on consecutive possessions — first for a 3-pointer by Mike James with 42.8 seconds on the clock and then for Carter’s triple to take a 102-100 edge with 6.5 ticks left for the Hornets to respond.
“As big as it gets,” Carlisle said of his team’s late-game execution en route to the come-from-behind win. “Down four with a minute to go, and the great thing was no one ever wavered or lost belief. Guys kept battling.”
“In my mind I was like, ‘If you’re going to shoot it, make it.’ And I’ve never been afraid to take the big shot,” Carter added after his go-ahead triple. “I’m not afraid of the consequences, good or bad. I just throw all that stuff out the window. I’ve been in that position before, and you can’t be afraid to shoot it.”
Mayo then deflected the ball off of Gordon on the inbound pass, sending the ball back to the Mavs with 5.8 seconds left to hold on. And after point guard Darren Collison calmly connected on two free throws to go up four with 3.1 seconds left, Gordon would misfire from 3 at the buzzer to put the seal on the Mavs’ win.
Finishing one point shy of his season high, Nowitzki scored 25 points to lead the Mavs on 10-of-17 shooting as the team improved to 1-4 this season when he scores 20 or more. Carter added 22 points off the bench on 7 of 13 from the field and 5 of 7 from 3-point range to help lead six Mavs in double figures, while Elton Brand pitched in 13 points in a reserve role. Collison registered 11 points and Mayo matched Marion with 10 points, dishing out nine assists as well.
“These games are always fun. I mean, we’re playing for a lot of marbles and just trying to get ourselves back into the race. It was a must-win game, just like every game we’re going to play from here on out. We’re trying to approach every game with a playoff mentality. I’m just glad we were able to find a way,” Carter concluded.
Gordon led the Hornets with 23 points on 7-of-19 shooting, but the Mavs’ 47.6 percent bettered the Hornets’ 40.7 percent to overcome losing the rebounding edge, 45-44. The Mavs also overcame the 19 points they surrendered off of 13 turnovers, collecting a season-high 17 blocked shots led by rookie center Bernard James, who became the ninth player in franchise history with seven rejections in a game.
“I think I was just comfortable,” the 6-foot-11, first-year big man explained. “I was a lot more comfortable than I usually am on defense tonight. I didn’t hesitate on rotations and helping. A part of that is trusting teammates, and I knew if I went to help and tried to block a shot my teammates were going to help me. I think our trust has been building a lot lately, and it’s really at a high for the season.”
“One reason there was so many blocked shots is because we were getting beat off the dribble so much,” Carlisle added. “We’ve got to do better with that. And look, we made the plays we had to make, but there’s still room for improvement. I’m excited about that, and we’re going to keep our enthusiasm about this and keep battling.”
Note: The Mavs will now return home for a third meeting of the season again the Los Angeles Lakers. The two teams are tied 1-1 in the season series after both won on the other’s home floor. The game will air nationally on ABC at noon CT. 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!