Earl K. Sneed recaps the action from the Mavericks' blowout win over the Suns on Sunday, after the Dallas team claimed its second straight win and moved in a tie with the L.A. Lakers for the No. 2 seed in the West.
DALLAS — With his team entering the night just a game behind the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers for the No. 2 position in the Western Conference standings and an equal distance ahead of the Oklahoma City Thunder for the 3 spot, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle was not ready to concede either position with just three games remaining on the schedule as he and his players approached Sunday evening’s showdown with the Phoenix Suns.
And with the Lakers and Thunder squaring off in L.A. at the same time, Carlisle confessed before his team’s final back-to-back of the season — touching down in Houston on Monday — that a fourth win of the season against the Suns could go a long way towards cementing the Mavs in a premium position.
“Look, we’re trying to win games,” Carlisle said heading into the matchup. “We’re trying to hang in there for second on the off chance that could happen, and philosophically we’re trying to win.”
Using that philosophy, the Mavericks (55-25) continued to keep themselves in contention for the coveted No. 2 slot, running away with the game from the first minute and sprinting to a blowout 115-90 victory, claiming their first four-game season sweep of the Suns since the 1987-88 season.
Bolstering the Mavericks’ ascend towards the No. 2 seed was the return of point guard Jason Kidd, coming back to the court after his two-day hiatus to rest for the final push towards the postseason. Meanwhile, the Suns (38-42) stepped foot on the floor at the American Airlines Center looking to avoid a fourth loss in the season series, as ex-Maverick Steve Nash once again returned to play in front of the Dallas crowd despite battling a minor hamstring injury.
As Kidd manned the controls once more the Mavericks’ offense came out clicking from the opening tip-off, while forwards Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion took charge from the get-go and led the home team to a 17-4 start.
“As the new player, that was my job, to get off to a good start,” Kidd joked. “For me, it was to be able to push the ball, get guys shots and go from there.”
At the same time center Tyson Chandler did his work inside on the glass, while sixth man Jason Terry provided the scoring off the bench, boosting the Mavs to their highest-scoring first quarter of the season and a 36-17 lead entering the second period.
“For us, it’s about rhythm, it’s about flow and how we move the ball offensively and how we fly around defensively,” Terry explained. “And tonight we showed a great example of it. Phoenix wasn’t playing for much, but it’s not about them, it’s about us and how we approach every game. And getting off to a start like that really gets you momentum.”
Terry and sharp-shooting forward Peja Stojakovic rained in back-to-back 3-pointers to keep the momentum going early in the second stanza. But the scoring would be a shared responsibility for the Mavericks in the quarter, as great ball movement and easy scores translated to a lead as large as 28. Dallas then went into the locker room feeling confidently, cruising to a comfortable 65-39 advantage — the largest of the season — at the midway mark.
Led by Nowitzki’s 15 first-half points and 12 more for Marion, the Mavericks outshot the Suns in the first half, 52 percent to 39 percent. And behind Chandler’s 10 rebounds in the first two quarters the Mavs also held a 26-17 edge on the glass.
But whatever momentum the Mavericks had going into the break would quickly shift the Suns’ way early in the third quarter, as Phoenix opened the second half on a 9-2 run. Meanwhile, both Chandler and second-year guard Rodrigue Beaubois found themselves in foul trouble with four each, forcing Carlisle to turn to his bench earlier than expected.
Still, the Mavs remained in front by a big margin, answering the Suns’ small spurt with an up-tempo assault and heading into the final 12 minutes of play with an 80-60 lead.
The Suns, however, refused to go quietly, still, cutting the Mavs’ lead with spectacular above-the-rim finishes by Hakim Warrick. That forced Terry and reserve guard J.J. Barea to retaliate with scores to keep the visiting squad at bay while the starters rested comfortably.
But the quarter was highlighted by Terry, who swished in his 1,000th 3-pointer as a Maverick during a stretch to quiet the Suns’ uprising.
“I’ve played with a lot of generous and courteous teammates that have shared the ball, and I’m very fortunate to be a Mav as long as I have,” Terry said of the accomplishment. “It’s huge, it’s a great accomplishment and I’m blessed.”
The Dallas team wouldn’t slow down from then on out, putting the finishing touches on the win with late 3s by Terry, Stojakovic and backup forward Brian Cardinal.
Nowitzki finished with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting, grabbing seven rebounds in just below 28 minutes. Playing nearly the same amount of time, Marion recorded a double-double, scoring 18 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.
Meanwhile, three Mavericks scored in double figures off the bench, with Terry and Stojakovic going for 17 while Barea pitched in 15. And in his return to the lineup, Kidd registered seven points and seven assists.
“Jason Kidd played, that helped a lot. I thought everyone played well. We didn’t always make shots, but we played hard and played together, and we had good balance. All those things are important,” Carlisle explained.
Marcin Gortat led three Suns in double figures with 15 points. But while outshooting the Suns, 51 percent to 43 percent, the Mavs also moved to 5-1 this season when scoring at least 60 bench points, posting 62 on the night. Dallas also finished with a 51-37 rebounding edge.
“We definitely were looking at some things that obviously in the playoffs we’re gonna have to do on both ends of the floor. And I think for the most part guys stayed focus, locked in, and they made a little run on us, but it was never threatening or anything like that. We got them out of there early and another tough one tomorrow,” Terry concluded.
“There are two more games left, and we want to keep some momentum going in a positive way,” Carlisle added.
After the game the Mavs immediately boarded a plane to Houston, heading out for the last time this season to play on the second night of a back-to-back against the in-state rival Rockets on Monday night. The Mavs lead the season series 3-0.
The Mavericks will now further look to lock in on the second-seeded spot, after the Thunder handed the Lakers a 120-106 loss to even Dallas and L.A. in the standings, with the reigning champs owning the tiebreaker.
Note: The fourth Mavericks-Rockets matchup of the season will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT on Monday night, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest.
The Mavs conclude the regular season against the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night in a potential playoff preview. The Mavs lead the season series 2-1. The fourth Hornets-Mavericks matchup of the season will tip off at 7 p.m. CT, airing nationally on ESPN and locally on Fox Sports Southwest. Great seats are still available and tickets can be purchased by visiting the American Airlines Center box office, logging on to Mavs.com or by calling 214-747-MAVS (6287).
Single-game tickets for the first two Mavs home games of the First Round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs are now on sale. Fans that purchase single-game tickets will receive a commemorative 2011 Mavs Playoff ticket*, which will allow the fans to experience augmented reality, a new technology that will bring the ticket to life with animated Mavs players including Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and Jason Terry. Game day and commemorative tickets will go live when the 2011 Playoffs begin.
Tickets will be available online at mavs.com, via phone (214-747-6287 or 1-800-4NBA-TIX) and the American Airlines Center® North Box Office**. Ticket prices start at $15 and up and there is an eight ticket limit per game. Tickets are also sold at all Ticketmaster outlets (Fiesta Grocery Stores, Simon Mall in Garland and Shops at Willow Bend).
Fans that purchase single game tickets at the American Airlines Center® North Box Office will receive their commemorative ticket at that time. For those purchasing online or at a Ticketmaster outlet, commemorative tickets will be available to pick up at the American Airlines Center® North Box Office or on Playoff game nights at the Mavs ticket sales table on the main concourse near the North Box Office. Augmented Reality is available only on Android phones. For more information, go to http://www.nba.com/mavericks/ar/ar.html.
Individual game tickets are on sale now. Tickets can be purchased at the American Airlines Center box office, on Mavs.com or by calling 214-747-MAVS (6287). Get in on the action and be there for all the thrills!
Fans can visit Mavs.com or call 214.747.MAVS for more information and a complete listing of regular-season home games.