(Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Earl K. Sneed reports from Orlando and recaps the Dallas Mavericks' thrilling win over the Magic as the defending champions capped off a comeback win on Dirk Nowitzki's game-winning jumper.
Recap: Mavericks 100 at Magic 98
ORLANDO — It’s been just a dream since Feb. 13, two days before the Dallas Mavericks watched helplessly as new addition Delonte West went down with a fractured right ring finger injury. Friday night, however, it became a reality.
Just a night after welcoming back West to the lineup in a 106-85 loss to the Miami Heat, the Mavericks finally returned to full strength with starting center Brendan Haywood back in the lineup after sitting out seven games due to a sprained right knee.
And with just 14 games remaining on the schedule, the Mavs tried to put their good health to use against All-Star center Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic to complete a back-to-back against the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 and 3 squads.
“Well, we’re getting a little healthier, which is good news for us on the one hand. On the other hand, the reintegration of guys that have been out can be challenging,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said before the game.
He added: “It is difference. It’s been some months really since it happened. And so, you know, we’ve gotta move forward and we’ve gotta try to get everyone involved as much as possible and still keep the team in a rhythm and keep us doing the things well that we’ve been doing well.”
The Mavericks then took the court at the Amway Center looking to bounce back from their disappointing showing in Miami the night before, attempting to get back in the win column before starting a three-game homestand. And with their full complement of players, the Mavericks (30-23) showed just how formidable they can be, coming back from a 15-point deficit to win a 100-98 thriller on Dirk Nowitzki’s game-winning bank-in with 5.9 seconds left.
With the victory, the Mavs improved to 2-19 this season when trailing after three quarters.
“Yeah, it was a big win,” Nowitzki said of his heroics. “It didn’t look pretty there. I think they had us all night. … It was tough there for a while, we were down big, but this team has some fighters in it and last year we were down a lot and fought back with our defense.”
But the Mavericks faced some early adversity in the form of Orlando’s deadly three-point shooting to begin the game. And after the Magic (32-20) connected on five shots from behind the arc in the opening quarter, the Mavericks stared at a 27-17 deficit entering the second stanza after hitting just 7-of-20 from the field and committing three turnovers for seven Orlando points.
As sluggish as the Mavs’ offense was in the first, it was equally efficient in the early stage of the second period as Nowitzki got hot from three-point range to power a 12-0 run after falling behind by 13.
But the Magic would use a technical foul call on Carlisle to its advantage, storming back with a 12-3 spurt to regain the momentum. And despite Nowitzki’s one-man heroics, the Mavericks entered the halftime break trailing 55-46.
Led by Nowitzki’s 18 points on 4-of-11 shooting, 2-of-3 from three and 8-for-8 at the foul line, the Mavs hung close despite being outshot, 45.5 percent to 42.5 percent. The Mavs also struggled to contain the Magic’s 7-for-19 shooting from long range while Ryan Anderson and Jameer Nelson combined to score 22 points.
A 5-0 run by forward Shawn Marion got the Mavs off to a quick start in the second half. But the Magic returned fire with Howard’s end-to-end dominance inside. And after Howard lifted the Magic back to a doubled-digit advantage, back-to-back offensive rebounds by Nelson and then a driving score forced Carlisle to call timeout down 77-62 with 2:35 left in the third.
“Watching Orlando all year long, we knew they were a team that had relinquished a lot of leads,” sixth man Jason Terry said. “Just the way they play; they’re either going inside or they’re shooting threes. And you live by the three, you die by it. And as long as we got the rebound we were gonna get baskets at the other end. We were getting shots all night long, so we were optimistic. And as long as there was time on the clock we had an opportunity.”
And thanks to a 9-1 close to the quarter, the Mavericks entered the final period down just 78-71.
An empathic slam by backup big man Ian Mahinmi got the Mavs on the board first in the fourth off a feed from Marion. Then it was West’s turn to assert himself with an array of offensive moves before Nowitzki reassumed the scoring duties to kick-start the comeback attempt.
After Howard’s and-1 score with 8:26 remaining briefly halted the Mavs’ momentum, Terry began to take matters into his own hands by scoring 10 straight Dallas points to bring the Mavs within one after shaking off his 1-of-10 night in Miami.
“It was a good stretch, I was in a great rhythm, Coach [Carlisle] kept calling my number and Delonte West was a great facilitator out there tonight. His energy, his toughness, it’s something we’ve been missing. He came to play tonight and we needed him,” Terry said.
The star reserve then found Marion on the break to tie the game at 89-all midway through the final period.
But after back-to-back scores by Anderson, the Mavs again looked upward at a 95-91 disadvantage on the scoreboard with 3:32 left.
Still, the Mavs continued to battle with Marion finding Mahinmi for a slam to cut the deficit to two. West then provided a timely three after two Anderson free throws, followed by a game-altering block by Mahinmi on Hedo Turkoglu and two shots at the charity stripe by West to give the Mavs a 98-97 lead with 1:10 left.
The Magic still weren’t done, however, tying the game on Nelson’s 1-of-2 trip to the line before Terry secured a rebound and called timeout with 25.1 seconds remaining.
After the timeout, West worked the clock down before feeding Nowitzki, who rained in a vintage one-legged fadeaway off the glass over Turkoglu with 5.9 ticks still on the clock.
“Well, I think we dodged a couple of bullets. I think it could have gone either way down the stretch. But tie game, you know, it’s a fun situation to be in,” Nowitzki explained of the final sequence. “If you miss it, you still have time to grab a rebound or at least go to overtime with a stop.
“I tried to lean back and create a little separation and Hedo was up on it pretty good, actually. So, I just tried to get it up over him and got it up in the air. I found the glass and it went in.”
The Dallas defense would do the rest, forcing a missed three by Turkoglu before Anderson’s putback attempt bounced off the iron just before the time expired as the Mavs notched a sixth straight win in Orlando.
The Mavericks finished with five players in double figures led by Nowitzki’s game-high 28 points on 9-of-18 shooting and 8-for-8 at the line.
Off the bench, Terry added 17 points and West matched Marion’s 15 points.
“We’re very diverse in the way we like to play,” Terry said. “We’ve got role players off the bench that could easily be starters in this league and when they get out on the floor they play hard.”
Nelson led four Magic players in double figures with 24 points and Anderson added 21 of his own while Howard finished with 19 points and 15 rebounds. The Mavs also finished the night outshooting the Magic, 47.5 percent to 44.9 percent, despite getting outrebounded, 47-37. In the win, the defending champs racked up 20 points off the Magic’s 16 turnovers (12 in the second half).
“We just turned up our level of aggression and we started to be more active with our hands,” Terry said of the defensive effort in the second half. “When we’re active with our hands, we get our hands on balls and we convert it into easy run-outs in transition.”
“I think the adjustment we made was we picked up our game. We picked up our intensity. When you do that, you can generate some problems for the other team,” Carlisle added.
The Mavericks will now return to the American Airlines Center on Monday night when they play host to the Los Angeles Clippers. The two teams are 1-1 in the season series with both winning on their own home floor. That game will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS.
Single-game tickets are on sale and available at the American Airlines Center North Box Office, online at mavs.com, via phone by calling 214-747-MAVS or 1-800-4NBA-TIX and all Ticketmaster outlets (Fiesta Grocery Stores, Wal-Mart, Simon Mall in Garland and the Shops at Willow Bend in Plano).