Recap: Mayo outduels Harden, Mavs battle to 8th straight W over Rockets
Earl K. Sneed reports from Houston and recaps the Dallas Mavericks' thrilling win Saturday night, as leading scorer O.J. Mayo tied a career-high with 40 points to lift the Mavs to an eighth straight W over the rival Rockets.
Recap: Mavericks 116 at Rockets 109
Mayo outduels Harden, Mavs battle to 8th straight W over Rockets
Putting their Southwest Division rivalry aside for just a moment, Carlisle welcomed McHale back to the sidelines for the first time since leaving the Rockets shortly before the death of his daughter on Nov. 24 after she lost her long-time battle with lupus. The two then turned their attention to the court, where the Mavericks looked to extend their seven-game winning streak over their divisional rival despite the absence of four-time All-Star Shawn Marion due to a strained right groin injury suffered in the second half of Thursday night’s 97-94 win in Phoenix.
And without their defensive leader, in addition to playing a 20th game to start the year without 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki (right knee surgery), the Mavericks (10-10) would need every bit of a career night from leading scorer O.J. Mayo to bring their three-game road trip to a close with a 2-1 mark after an emotional 116-109 win.
“It was just will, man. We all imposed our will on the game and we wanted to win,” Mayo emphatically said after the victory. “This was a very important game, because it was a division game, it was against a team that was just ahead of us in the standings and we wanted to get back to .500 going back home before we go back on the road. So, we put a lot of importance on this game and we wanted to make sure we came in here and got the win.”
Without Marion available, the Mavericks would feature a league-leading 10th different starting lineup of the young season, as Carlisle went with the first unit of veteran point guard Derek Fisher, Mayo, small forward Dahntay Jones, big man Brandan Wright and center Chris Kaman.
With Kaman shaking off a sprained left ankle injury suffered in Phoenix and opening the game with back-to-back jumpers, the Mavs were off to a fast start.
“Kaman showed a lot of guts even being out there,” Carlisle would later say. “His ankle is purple, if you want to go look at it in the training room. And he strapped it up, went out there and gave us everything that he had.”
Meanwhile, Mayo continued to torch opposing defenses, as the scoring assassin added an outside assault to Kaman’s interior play. And with Mayo exploding for 16 points in the opening period on 6-of-7 shooting, the Mavs eclipsed their previous highest-scoring first quarter of 36 points versus Toronto on Nov. 7 and led the Rockets (9-10) after one, 39-24.
Leading by as much as 19 in the first quarter, the Mavs appeared to have clear control of the game heading into the second stanza. But the Rockets wouldn’t be easily done in on their own floor, trimming their deficit to single digits. The NBA’s fifth-leading scorer, James Harden, then took charge with an array of moves on the offensive end, matching Mayo shot for shot and putting his team atop the scoreboard.
And with 19 of his 30 first-half points coming in the second quarter, Harden led the Rockets into the halftime break with a 66-63 edge.
Despite Mayo’s 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting and 4-for-4 from 3, the Mavericks were outshot through the first two quarters, 55.6 percent to 54.5 percent. The Rockets also overcame the Mavs’ 12-5 advantage in fast-break points with 8-of-17 shooting from 3-point range in the half.
The Rockets would continue to control the pace early into the third quarter while jumping out to an 11-point advantage. But with Kaman once again asserting himself inside and a thunderous jam by Jones over Patrick Patterson, the Mavs would begin to seize the momentum midway through the third.
Still, with just Kaman and Mayo scoring in double figures for the Mavs through the first 36 minutes of action, the visiting team limped into the final quarter down five, 89-84.
“Talk about an emotional roller coaster of a game. I mean, it doesn’t get any more crazy than this one,” Carlisle said after seeing a 30-point swing in the game. “To go up 19 and go down 11, whatever it was, and the guys hung in and just kept on believing. And I felt like if we could ever guard the pick-and-roll a little bit we’d have a chance, and we were able to adjust a little bit.”
“They’re a good team and they were at home. A lot of emotions built in this game with Coach McHale coming back. They were on a back-to-back, they came out a little sluggish, but they can score in bunches,” Mayo added.
After scoring just two points in the third, Mayo went back to work while trying to will his team to the win in the final 12 minutes of action. Eight-time All-Star Vince Carter then offered a helping hand, draining a 3 to pull the Mavs within two, 98-96. Two free throws by Fisher then tied the game 100-all with 4:48 remaining before an emphatic slam by Wright gave the Mavericks the upper hand.
The ball then swung back to Mayo, who gladly obliged with clutch jumpers during an 18-3 run, that was ended by Harden’s and-one score over Darren Collison to cut the Dallas lead to 107-104 with 2:14 left on the clock. Mayo then passed his previous season-high of 32 points with a patented jumper, but the Rockets immediately answered with a 3-pointer by Toney Douglas to cut the Dallas lead to two, 109-107, with just 56.4 seconds left.
Mayo still wasn’t done, however, draining a dagger 3 with just 38.4 seconds remaining to put his team up five on an inbound play as the shot clock ran down.
“Just focused in on time and score,” Mayo said of the shot. “Really just wanted to get the win. … I was cool, just trying to take my time and just trying to make the right basketball play every time."
The sharpshooter then answered a score by Patterson with a drive to the hoop with 21.2 seconds left, before Collison provided the final padding with a 2-for-2 trip to the free throw line.
Scoring a season-high 40 points — and matching a career-high set against Denver on Nov. 1, 2009 while with Memphis — on 15-of-26 shooting and 6-of-9 from 3-point range, Mayo led four scorers in double figures while adding eight rebounds and three assists.
“His confidence level right now and his belief in himself and understanding his role for this team right now with Dirk being out and tonight with Shawn being out, Chris banged up … and so, O.J. really took on the role of basically putting us on his back offensively. And he’s playing at an unbelievable level right now, and I think he should be proud of the work that he’s put in and thankful to have this opportunity to continue to get better at both ends of the floor,” Fisher said on his backcourt mate’s night.
Meanwhile, a hobbled Kaman went 9-of-13 from the floor and pitched in 20 points, while Collison and Carter both added 12 points off the bench.
“[Kaman] is obviously struggling laterally, but to put up the scoring numbers that he did was phenomenal and it proves a lot to the team about what he’s about,” Carlisle said with high praise for the big man.
“Ultimately we got the W and that’s the most important thing here,” Kaman said. “If everybody played bad and we still won, that’s all that matters. … Having said all that, we’re 10-10 now and we need to turn that corner.”
Harden finished with just nine points in the second half to bring his total to 39 for the night, leading five Rockets in double figures. The Rockets also outshot the Mavs on the night, 48.6 percent to 47.3 percent. But while scoring 21 points off Houston’s 20 turnovers, the Mavs finished with just 12 giveaways themselves in addition to a 40-37 rebounding advantage.
The Mavs will now return home for one game against the Sacramento Kings on Monday night before journeying back on the road for a three-game road trip. The 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 (6287) or by visiting Mavs.com.
“We’re growing,” Mayo said after his team battled back to reach .500 without Nowitzki. “It’s a young team that you see growing, jelling and getting better as time is going. We've just got to build off it. It’s one game, we’ll enjoy it tonight. Like I said, we had a 19-point lead and blew that, so there’s some areas we can get better in and just continue to get better.”