By Will Martin
March 16th the Dallas Mavericks were on the road to play a team they had not beaten in 11 previous tries. There was that meeting one year ago on St. Patrick’s Day along with that overtime affair in January 2013 when Kevin Durant got half of the Thunder’s points that evening. Since that championship run of 2010-2011 wins indeed have been rare for Dallas when playing the OKC Thunder.
What ended up happening was nothing short of special. Even with Sefolosha, Perkins, and Westbrook seated the Mavericks played one of their best games of the season in becoming only the 3rd team to win at the Chesapeake Arena Energy Center 109-86. What we didn’t know until well after the game was that Monta Ellis was sick and playing his tail off despite this.
Next up was the start of an eight game home stand. The Mavericks are halfway home and playing at a 2-2 mark which is made even more frustrating that both losses were in overtime by a total of three points!
St. Patrick’s Day, the Celtics were in town and of course when the Green invades a building you can anticipate every kind of weird happening to upset the balance of the cart. That fact was not lost on Rick Carlisle after the Mavs held on to a 94-89 victory behind a 19 point performance from Shawn Marion and an off night for Dirk Nowitzki with 19.
“I feel especially fortunately that we were able to beat these guys on St. Patrick’s Day,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle smirked postgame. “You know, if you play the Celtics on St. Patrick’s Day, that’s not exactly a good situation even if you’re at home.”
At one point Dallas enjoyed a 15 point lead with the third quarter winding down before the Celtics, namely Jerryd Bayless and Avery Bradley, started connecting from behind the arc. Even with a 90-89 lead with 26 ticks left Monta Ellis was the essence of cool as he parlayed two free throws and allowed the Mavs to escape with a win.
Dirk summed up the night for the team on St. Patrick’s Night, “We all know that after an emotional and tough win on the road sometimes it’s hard to get up the next day, especially against a team that so-called does not have a great record,” Nowitzki noted. “But we wanted to get this win somehow and it wasn’t pretty. You’ve got to give them credit, they play hard. They kept coming even when we were up 10. They kept making plays and crashing the boards on us, and they’re a hard-playing bunch. They’re well-coached and we’re fortunate to come away with the win down the stretch.”
March 19th the Minnesota T-Wolves came into town and immediately put Dallas in a 22 point hole as turnovers and a triple double by Ricky Rubio took this game to overtime. And that’s where Dallas would fall in a frustrating fashion, 123-122.
“They came out and struck first, and we were playing catch-up the rest of the game,” forward Shawn Marion said postgame. “We got it tied and had the lead for a little bit, but we weren’t able to close it out. We were able to fight and get it to overtime, but we just weren’t able to close it out and get the win.”
Ten turnovers led to 17 points for Minnesota. One reason Dallas trailed 37-24 after 1 period of play was the 15-2 advantage in fast break points for the T-Wolves.
“I’m not sure if we were quite ready to play,” Nowitzki said later. “You know, we just had dumb turnovers and they were kind of into us. We weren’t quite ready and we were caught on our heels … but I really liked our fight in the second quarter and how we came back in it — started to play harder, started to make them work a little harder on offense and rebound the ball. I liked how we responded there in the second quarter.”
Nevertheless a furious second half push put Dallas on a 24-5 run to make the game interesting after three, 94-87. You saw some strong bench play from Devin Harris, Jae Crowder and Brandan Wright in the process. A Monta Ellis trey in the corner would spark a 10-0 Mavericks run followed by two Ricky Rubio free throws to take the game to take it to overtime, 113-113. Monta Ellis would start the overtime draining a three along with Dirk before Minnesota answered back with a charge of their own after Vince Carter fouled out of the game when number six was called. Back to back shots by Dirk and then Kevin Love gave the T-Wolves a 123-122 victory in overtime after Dirk’s final shot attenpted hit the rail and bounced awry.
“I knew I was going to shoot one off the dribble,” Nowitzki shared of that last shot attempt. “Obviously, I made one facing up earlier on him in overtime, so he was going to push up a little bit. So I probably shouldn’t have even pump faked. I knew he was probably not going to go for it, ’cause he uses the pump fake himself 20 times a game, so I should have probably (used) just one dribble and up. But, you know, it’s too late now.”
Monta Ellis had 22 points in the loss assisted by Vince Carter with 14 and Devin Harris with 13. Ricky Rubio: 10 rebounds, 15 assists, 22 points for a triple double. The Mavs were unable to complete the Minnesota season sweep. It also put an end to a three game win streak.
Friday night March 21st it was the Denver Nuggets who had hoped to complete their season sweep of the Mavericks, having won the first three. It was not to be.
Monta Ellis continued to be under the weather and ill. You would not have thought that after the 4th quarter he provided when the Nuggets came to within three and getting a rare lead. Instead seven Mavericks in double figures would contribute wonderfully in a 122-106 victory at the American Airlines Center.
The first half, heck the first period was all about what Jae Crowder provided while scoring from deep.
“I thought Crowder in the first half — coming in and hitting the four 3s and being active defensively — really gave us a boost when Vince went out,” Mavericks Rick Carlisle said. “Jae’s stint out there was big for us. We were able to get scoring and defense while Vince was getting fixed up.”
Vince Carter was dealing with an injured finger that led to the added playtime for #9. While Crowder hit all four of his 3-point attempts in the 1st half, it was the play of Monta Ellis in the final period that wowed the fans and the team. 26 points on 11 for 14 shooting which was a needed boost as Denver possessed five double digit shooters of their own led by Ty Lawson with 18 points off the bench.
Thankfully Dallas shot 54% while the Nuggets hit 46%. There was no question of intensity on this Friday night.
“I mean, that’s the way we have to play,” Carter shared. “I think we did a great job of just turning up our level of intensity and really focusing in on our defensive scheme. We rebounded, kept them off the glass and kept them out of transition. I mean, all of the things we needed to do we did it tonight and we hit shots. … We played well throughout the course of the game, established a lead and we were able to sustain it, even though they made a run.”
Any issues with fatigue among Dallas playing every other night?
“There was some fatigue that set in and some heavy legs. But, at the same time, we took their punch and we were able to come down the stretch, execute on offense and get some defensive stops. And that was the biggest thing for us,” Monta Ellis quipped.
Coming into Sunday nights game with the Brooklyn Nets, and a 41st birthday for Coach Jason Kidd, the Mavericks were sitting at 42-28 with 12 games to play and Phoenix looking in their rear view mirror.
A 14 point lead that Dallas had after period one and a 13 point lead at 72-59 nearing the end of the third period would crumble in a second. In the fourth period the Nets brought the lead down and would take the Mavericks down in overtime 107-104. Joe Johnson scoring 22 points and with Marcus Thornton scoring 20 points off the bench was a thorn in the Mavs side.
Shooting 50% to 25% in the first period Dallas looked to be ready to make the current homestand a 3-1 mark. Brooklyn had other ideas as the 4th period arrived and they ran of a 14-0 run where the Mavericks were making ill-advised turnovers and the Nets were picking on and testing Shane Larkin for the 12 plus minutes he was in the game.
Six Mavericks were in double figures for this game. Monta Ellis with 32 led everyone. Shawn Marion and Samuel Dalembert had 12 apiece. Devin Harris was forced into early play when Jose Calderon took an inadvertent smack to the face from Mason Plumlee 45 seconds in.
A 48-41 halftime lead would finish up at 91-91 at the end of regulation. Marcus Thornton for Brooklyn was the one to start that 14-0 run when hitting back to back threes. Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson made key shots that sent the game into overtime.
A three point basket by Deron Williams and a Shaun Livingston steal off a Shawn Marion pass put the Nets ahead 100-95 with two minutes to go. Dallas came up a little short 107-104 despite at one point doing very well in the paint (40-38) and in the rebound battle (52-47).
“It’s frustrating,” Marion said of losing. “We had a chance to put the stamp on these guys earlier in the game and we didn’t do it. We let them get back in the game, slowly but surely. We stopped doing what we do and started playing their style of play, and they were able to walk the game down.”
“Nowitzki had an off night and that happens,” Coach Carlisle stated. “When it happens, the ball has got to move and other guys have to get involved, which we did. We did a lot of good things considering it wasn’t his best night. We were in great position, and then twice we couldn’t get stops in regulation. Give them credit. They executed and we got blown by twice — once for a foul and once for a layup. Then it hinges on the last shot and another five minutes on the clock. It’s unfortunate, but they deserve the credit. We put ourselves in that situation by not being able to get stops.”
The next stop is the Thunder for a 7 o’clock tip off and then the Clippers on the 27th for a 7:30 tipoff . The next 11 games are going to be a real test. Still no word on the extent of Jose Calderon’s injury.
2-2 home stand should in fact be 4-0. That’s enough to drive anyone mad!
3/25 vs Thunder 7:00 PM
3/27 vs Clippers 7:30 PM
3/29 vs Kings 7:30 PM