Recap: Mavs bounce back, lift off to season series win over Rockets
Recap: Mavericks 112, Rockets 108
Mavs bounce back, lift off to season series win over Rockets
DALLAS — “Not tonight.”
Those two words were all the motivation the Dallas Mavericks needed heading into Wednesday’s showdown against the Houston Rockets just three nights after suffering a 136-103 lopsided loss at the Toyota Center.
Taped inside of the Mavericks’ locker room for each player to see were those empowering words written in red ink on the box score of Sunday’s disappointing defeat as the home-and-home series shifted to the American Airlines Center. The Mavs then stepped onto their home hardwood after a 1-2 road trip, looking to get even against the rival Rockets before heading back out for a four-game trip beginning Friday in Detroit.
Meanwhile, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle once again made a tweak to his starting lineup, inserting 37-year-old point guard Mike James and big man Brandan Wright at center over Darren Collison and Chris Kaman while giving Dallas its 19th different first unit this season. And with the change in place, the Mavericks (27-33) got their revenge with a 112-108 victory while claiming a 3-1 season series win over the Rockets (33-29).
“On Sunday they took it to us and we definitely wanted to be ready to play today,” 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki said of the win. “I thought we did. We came to compete. … They have a good team, so we had to grind this one out, but I thought we definitely had a lot of guys contributing and it was a team effort.”
“We understood we got a pretty good [tail-kicking] in Houston and we didn’t take it very well,” leading scorer O.J. Mayo added. “We were supposed to have a day off the day after the game, but we came in and got some good work in and really got after it. I thought it carried over to tonight’s game.”
Making his first start since March 25, 2009 for Washington, James tried to engineer the Mavericks to a quick start as the opening quarter got underway. But it would be four-time All-Star Shawn Marion and Nowitzki handling the Mavs’ scoring responsibilities early, helping the Mavs seize a slight advantage midway through the quarter.
However, the Rockets remained in the game as sharpshooter Chandler Parsons continued to light the net on fire after scoring a career-high 32 points against the Dallas defense on Sunday. Still, behind Marion’s 12 first-quarter points, the Mavs entered the second stanza with a 34-25 advantage.
After 15-of-21 shooting in the first period, the Mavs tried to keep things rolling into the second quarter. The Dallas reserves then took over the offensive duties, while the Mavs’ defense continued to struggle to contain Parsons and Carlos Delfino on the perimeter at the other end of the floor.
The Mavs then received a little break in their favor just before the halftime intermission, after a 3-pointer by Jeremy Lin was reviewed and ruled to be after the buzzer to give Dallas a 60-56 edge through the first two quarters of play.
Led by Marion’s 16 first-half points and Nowitzki’s 11 points on a combined 12-of-17 shooting, the Mavs held the slight advantage despite 34 combined points from the Rockets’ trio of Parsons, Lin and James Harden. The Mavs also outshot the Rockets up to the midway mark, 62.5 percent to 40 percent, to go along with a 36-16 margin in points in the paint.
After dishing out a career high for any first half with seven assists, Mayo continued to drop dimes while opening the third quarter with a feed out to James on the wing for a 3.
“I just wanted to get in there and try and make the simple play. … Just trying to be a playmaker,” Mayo said as his assists total continued to pile up while battling a sprained thumb on his shooting hand.
The shot would lead to a 7-0 Dallas run after back-to-back scores by Wright to lift the Mavs to a double-digit lead. Backup big man Elton Brand’s followup tip-dunk on sixth man Vince Carter’s drive then highlighted the period as the Mavs surged ahead by as much as 12 before taking an 87-83 advantage into the final 12 minutes following Carter’s triple just before the close of the third.
“We played better and we had a stronger posture tonight,” Carlisle said while reflecting on Sunday’s third quarter that saw his team outscored 44-17 before eventually falling to a defeat.
He added: “We weathered everything tonight and it’s the sign of some character.”
Exchanging shots from long range with Parsons, Nowitzki did his best to keep the Rockets at bay before Thomas Robinson’s layup forced a timeout by Carlisle with the Mavs up just one, 92-91, with 9:48 still on the game clock.
Carter and Delfino then exchanged shots from behind the arc as Dallas continued to keep the Rockets at a safe distance, before frustration boiled over for Nowitzki after earning his fifth personal foul just before being assessed a technical with the Mavs up 100-96 and 5:33 remaining.
Climbing within one after the trips to the free throw line, the Rockets continued to rally while taking a 104-102 lead on Harden’s 3 to force a timeout by Carlisle with 3:39 left to respond. And respond the Mavs would do, taking the lead right back on Mayo’s triple to beat the shot clock the next time down.
Another Mayo jumper would not only give the Mavs a three-point edge, it also forced a timeout by the Rockets with just 2:22 left to close. Nowitzki then lent a helping hand, getting the roll on a mid-range jumper to go up five. Still, after consecutive trips to the free throw line by Harden, the Mavs held just a two-point edge after Marion connected on 1 of 2 at the line with 49.9 ticks left to hold on.
Marion and the Dallas defense then rose to the occasion, making a stand on Harden’s drive and forcing a miss before a review handed the ball over to the Mavs with 6.4 seconds left.
“Shawn had a great all-around game. We needed his points early, and then throughout the whole game he did a tremendous job on Harden. Harden had a lot of points, but at the end of the game Shawn was the guy that got the key stops,” Carlisle would later say.
Collison took it from there, calmly connecting on two free throws to put the Mavs up four with 4.7 seconds still on the clock. Delfino then missed at the buzzer to secure the win for the Mavs.
Finishing with 22 points apiece, Nowitzki and Marion led five Mavs in double figures. Carter added 16 points off the bench and Wright pitched in 12 points in the first unit. Mayo, meanwhile, filled up the stat sheet, scoring 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting and 3 of 4 from deep, snatching down six rebounds to boot and dishing out a career-high 12 assists while playing turnover-free basketball.
“He was great tonight. I thought Mayo was phenomenal — making the right decisions off the pick-and-rolls, getting in the lane and not forcing anything. And he had two big shots down the stretch when he was open. … The big thing for him is he had zero turnovers, which sometimes get him in trouble. So he just made the right decision ever time and that was fun,” Nowitzki said with high praise for his 25-year-old teammate.”
“His best game of the year. Not even close,” Carlisle said while echoing Nowitzki’s salute to Mayo’s play. “He just played great defensively, his awareness was tremendous, and then offensively he made the right play virtually every time.”
Harden led five Rockets in double figures with a game-high 28 points, but did so on just 5 of 17 from the floor, hitting 16 of 16 at the foul line to boost his production while Marion played stellar defense all night long.
“I thought Marion was the player of the game,” Nowitzki said after his veteran teammate moved into sole possession of 25th place on the all-time steals list while breaking his tie with Rod Strickland (1,616). “He really battled Harden all night and forced him into some tough shots. I mean, he still got to the free throw line every other time down, but I thought from the floor ‘Trix [Marion] forced him into some tough shots.”
“You know, he’s a very aggressive player,” Marion said of Harden. “If you take a lot of those free throws out of the game, he had a rough night tonight. But he was able to get to the line, and that’s what he does well. He’s leading the league in free throw attempts.”
The Mavericks also finished the night outshooting the Rockets, 54.2 percent to 44.9 percent, dishing out 35 assists as a team to go against their 11 turnovers and overcoming Houston’s 40-33 rebounding advantage with a 52-38 margin in points in the paint.
“We got a good win and we won the series,” Marion concluded. “Hey, that’s all we needed, and it’s a good step in the right direction. Now, we’ve got a four-game road trip, so we’ve got to bundle up and get ready to play some ball on the road.”
“It’s just one game and it was a game we wanted to get obviously after we just played them a couple of days ago, and so it was a good game to get before we go out on a road trip for four games. And we just want to play well and continue getting better,” Mayo added.
Note: The Mavericks will now head back out on the road for a four-game trip, touching down in Detroit for Friday’s matchup against the Pistons. The Mavs lead the season series 1-0 after a 92-77 home win on Dec. 1. The game will air locally at 6:30 p.m. CT on Fox Sports Southwest.
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