Carter didn’t believe Wright could go up and get it despite his fellow Tar Heel’s long arms and pogo-stick lift.
“I’m a positive guy, but as soon as I saw it, I was like, ‘That’s too damn high,’” Carter said, laughing because Wright proved him wrong, soaring to snag the ball with his left hand well over the square on the backboard and slam it home.
The highlight of the Mavericks’ 109-86 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder could hardly be considered a surprise. How many times has Wright gone up, up, up for a lob and finish?
Harris has been on the front end of a lot of those highlights during his two months playing with Wright. And he’s thrown several lobs that didn’t seem catchable until Wright’s lanky left arm shot up toward the rafters before firing down to the rim with ball in hand.
“I’m testing my limits,” Harris said. “I’m seeing how high he can really go. I’m testing my limits to see how high I can really put it up there.”
There was a pass from Harris in last week’s win over the Utah Jazz that Wright couldn’t handle. But the issue there was velocity, not verticality.
Put some touch on the pass, and Wright promises he’ll go get it.
“As long as he doesn’t throw it over the backboard, he can’t overthrow me,” said a smiling Wright, who has a team-high 64 dunks this season. “As long as he doesn’t throw it over the backboard, I’m in good shape.”
He’ll get no argument from Harris, who loves turning the corner on his defender and seeing the opposing big man step up to help when Wright is on the floor. That’s an automatic lob, a highlight waiting to happen.
“Anywhere around the rim, he’s pretty much going to catch it,” said Harris, who six assists against the Thunder included a couple of alley-oops to Wright. “It makes my job so much easier. It’s more of a bail-out. When I feel like I might be able to get to the rim but I don’t really feel like I can get there, I can always throw it up to B. Wright.
“Just throw it in the air. Just put it up there and he’ll go up and get it.”
But the Dallas Mavericks didn’t need big nights from their two most potent offensive weapons to light up the Oklahoma City Thunder en route to a 109-86 win Sunday night.
Devin Harris is part of a strong Dallas bench that can step up when the Mavericks' top scorers are having off nights.
“If we attack from all angles and have multiple guys score, we’re a tough team to play,” said Nowitzki, who had 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting, sitting out the final six minutes after an Oklahoma City squad that had won the previous 11 meetings with the Mavs waved the white flag.
This performance epitomized the Mavs’ attack-from-all-angles style. Eight players scored at least eight points, led by Shawn Marion’s 19. Dallas shot 53.3 percent from the floor, including a sizzling 13-of-24 from 3-point range.
It was one of the Mavs’ most impressive offensive performances, but it certainly wasn’t out of character. This is a team that ranks third in the NBA in offensive rating (108.5 points per 100 possessions) and third in 3-point shooting (38.3 percent).
Nowitzki’s mere presence guarantees that the Mavs guards will have space to attack. Ellis (nine points, seven assists) and Devin Harris (eight points, six assists), in particular, have the quickness to exploit those creases. That often creates open looks for shooters such as Jose Calderon (16 points, seven assists, 4-of-8 from 3-point range) and Vince Carter (18 points, 4-of-8 on 3s).
And they’ve got a couple of big men in Samuel Dalembert and Brandan Wright, who combined for 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting and can finish at and above the rim.
“We have so many guys that can do so many things,” Carter said. “Even without Monta scoring, he gets in the paint and he does a lot for our team. He just makes it tough for [opponents]. When we’re hitting shots, his ability to get in the paint is to another level. He just gets there with ease and makes the right play. He can find guys for open shots. When we’re hitting them, it’s tough.”
Carlisle prefers to keep his play calling to a minimum because the Mavs are at their best playing a random, flowing offensive style. They’re a veteran bunch that pride themselves on their savvy and unselfishness, well aware that ball movement is a critical element to their efficiency, ranking fifth in the league with 23.6 assists per game.
“The basketball had too much freedom,” Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said after Dallas dished out 26 assists, while carving up the Thunder's defense. “They were moving us around. They dictated the game with their ball movement. We could control the basketball, and that is what happens when you are playing against a great 3-point shooting team.”
One of the major goals of the Mavs’ summer roster reconstruction was to put together a team that didn’t need Nowitzki to have monster nights to have a chance to win. The Mavs succeeded in that mission.
Nowitzki is as efficient as ever, ranking 13th in the league in scoring with 21.4 points per game and sitting a half-point shy on his field-goal percentage putting him in the historically exclusive 50/40/90 shooting club. But he has a legitimate scoring sidekick in Ellis; three other teammates who average double figures; and a deep bench to ease the scoring burden on the big German.
This is a good enough offensive team to make one of the West’s big boys sweat in a playoff series.
“We know we can score,” Harris said. “It’s what we do on the other end that [will determine] how successful we’ll be. We know we can make shots.”
The Mavs have proven that over the course of the season. Sunday night was one of their prettiest exhibits.
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Shawn Marion scored 19 points, Vince Carter added 18 and the Dallas Mavericks beat Oklahoma City 109-86 on Sunday night, ending a seven-game regular-season losing streak to the Thunder.
Dirk Nowitzki added 17 points and Jose Calderon had 16 points for Dallas, which entered the game tied for seventh in the Western Conference standings. The Mavericks, who begin an eight-game homestand on Monday, became only the third Western Conference team to win this season in Oklahoma City, joining the Portland Trail Blazers and the Los Angeles Clippers.
Dallas' win over the Thunder was its first since Jan. 2, 2012. In addition to the seven straight regular-season losses to Oklahoma City, the Mavericks also were swept by the Thunder in a 2012 playoff series.
OKLAHOMA CITY -- With Russell Westbrook resting, the Dallas Mavericks routed the Oklahoma City Thunder 109-86.
How it happened: Dallas left no doubt during its first victory in Oklahoma City since the epic Game 4 comeback in the 2011 Western Conference finals.
This might have been the Mavs’ best all-around performance of the season. Dallas shot 53.3 percent from the floor, made 13 of 24 3-point attempts and had eight players score at least eight points. The Mavs also held the Thunder, one of the league’s most potent offensive teams even with their explosive point guard in street clothes, to 36.7 percent shooting.
MVP candidate Kevin Durant led all scorers with 30 points, but he wasn’t as efficient as usual, going 8-of-20 from the floor. Serge Ibaka and Reggie Jackson were the only other Oklahoma City players to score in double figures.
Shawn Marion, the primary defender on Durant, led the Mavs with 19 points and grabbed six rebounds. Vince Carter (18 points) and Jose Calderon (16) were both 4-of-8 from 3-point range.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks waved the white flag midway through the fourth quarter, going deep into the bench with the Mavs leading by 23 points. The Mavs had the luxury of resting their starters down the stretch on the front end of a back-to-back, with Dirk Nowitzki (17 points) playing only 30 minutes.
What it means: It’s proof that the Mavs can actually beat the Thunder, snapping Dallas’ 11-game losing streak (including the 2012 playoffs) to its Red River neighbors. This outcome also makes another Thunder-Mavs playoff series a little more likely. The Mavs (40-27) created a half-game cushion over the Memphis Grizzlies for seventh place in the West. Dallas also is only a game behind the sixth-place Golden State Warriors, having made up two games since last week’s loss in Oakland. In the fight for the West’s top seed, the Thunder (48-18) fell two games behind the San Antonio Spurs pending the outcome of the Spurs-Jazz game.
Play of the game: Is Devin Harris even capable of overthrowing a lob pass to Brandan Wright? It certainly didn’t seem like it when Wright soared near the top of the backboard to catch a wild alley-oop from Harris late in the third quarter, throwing it down with his left hand to stretch the Mavs’ lead to 21. Harris was driving on the right side of the lane when he floated up the one-handed, off-balance lob on the other side of the rim. Wright’s catch was ridiculous on its own. To throw it down in the same motion made this one of the prettiest plays of the Mavs’ season.
Stat of the night: With a 3-pointer late in the third quarter, Carter became the 27th player in NBA history to score 23,000 career points.
The Mavs recalled Larkin on Saturday, a night after the first-round point guard had his best D-League performance, putting up 22 points and 11 assists in the Legends' win over the Maine Red Claws. Larkin has averaged 15.3 points and 8.3 assists in four D-League games this season.
Mekel, a rookie point guard, will switch places with Larkin, having been re-assigned to the Legends. Mekel has played in three D-League games this season, averaging 9.3 points and 6.3 assists.
The Mavs will continue regularly sending their young players to the D-League to get them minutes for the rest of the season.
Larkin will be available for the Texas Legends on Saturday night against the Maine Red Claws in the Dallas suburb of Frisco. He will likely be back with the Mavericks on Sunday night in Oklahoma City.
The son of Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin has seen a significant drop in playing time since Devin Harris returned from offseason toe surgery. He hasn't gotten off the bench in 10 of 21 games, and played more than 10 minutes just twice in that span.
Larkin is averaging 13.3 points, 7.3 assists and 6.0 rebounds in three games with the Legends.
Nowitzki was coming off two consecutive off games and was practically a spectator while the Mavs were on offense for most of the first half of the previous night’s loss to the Golden State Warriors. The top priority entering the game was to get the big German going again, which is why coach Rick Carlisle called a play to get Nowitzki a post-up opportunity on the opening possession.
Nowitzki knocked down a one-legged fadeaway on that play, when he got the ball on the left block after coming off a back pick set by Monta Ellis. He took four shots in the Mavs’ first six possessions, making three of them and setting the tone for a spectacularly efficient 31-point, 12-of-14 outing.
Should it be the highest priority to get the face of the franchise the rock right off the bat in every game?
“We want to get him touching the ball early in the game in every game,” Carlisle said. “If it doesn’t happen, I blame myself for it.
“Just soreness at this point,” Crowder said. “No pain, so that’s a good sign.”
Crowder was pulled about two-thirds of the way into practice for precautionary reasons. He’s expected to be a full participant in Saturday’s practice before joining the team for the trip to Oklahoma City.
“He was doing well,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “We didn’t want to push him too hard.”
Crowder has drifted in and out of the Mavs’ rotation recently, losing playing time to Wayne Ellington. However, Crowder will likely be useful Sunday, as the Mavs will need to throw a bunch of bodies at NBA scoring leader Kevin Durant. The 6-foot-6 Crowder has the top defensive rating (100.1 points per 100 possessions) among the Mavs.
“We’ve got to have all our perimeter defenders available,” Crowder said, confident that he will be.
The big German has already bumped five NBA legends down a spot this season and is on pace to pass Dominique Wilkins and Oscar Robertson before the playoffs begin. It’s fun to try to figure out how high Dirk will climb.
It’s a safe bet that Nowitzki will finish next season in seventh place, passing Hakeem Olajuwon, Elvin Hayes and Moses Malone. Shaquille O’Neal and the No. 6 spot should be well within Nowitzki’s reach in the 2015-16 season, as Dirk has publicly declared he’ll play at least that long.
Will Nowitzki keeping lacing ‘em up long enough to join the 30,000-point club? To crack the top five?
We won’t have to wait too long for those answers. Here’s a question that will require much more patience to get answers: Which active players will eventually pass Nowitzki?
A look at the select few who have a legitimate chance, with Nowitzki’s point totals at the end of the season when he was their age:
Career points: 22,692
Dirk points at that age: 16,990
He’s 29 years old and already 28th on the all-time scoring list. How ridiculous is that? King James has scored more than 2,000 points in all but two of his 11 NBA seasons -- his rookie campaign as a 19-year-old and the lockout-shortened season. It doesn’t seem like the four-time MVP is slowing down anytime soon. There's little doubt that James will pass Nowitzki. The question is whether he’ll catch Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Career points: 19,616
Dirk points at that age: 16,990
How gracefully will Melo age? Will he sacrifice shots for a chance to play for a championship contender? Considering his 3,000-point pad before hitting 30, he’ll probably end up passing Nowitzki regardless of the answer to those questions. And Anthony’s development as a 3-point threat (career-best .418 from long range this season) provides another reason to believe that he’ll put up big numbers well into his thirties.
“Devin being out hurt us,” Nowitzki said after Harris had to exit in the second quarter of the Mavericks’ loss to the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night. “It’s as simple as that. If he’s going to miss some more games, it’s going to be tough for us to get in (to the playoffs).
Fortunately for the Mavs, Harris was back Wednesday night, looking no worse for the wear in the win over the Utah Jazz, contributing 12 points, three assists and three rebounds in 20 minutes.
“Harris did what he’s been doing,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He did a little bit of everything: playmaking, scoring.”
Harris, a tremendous bargain for the veteran’s minimum despite missing the first half of the season while recovering from toe surgery, was back to being one of the best bang-for-buck backup point guards in the league.
Factoring in finances, production and impact for a probable playoff team, Chicago’s D.J. Augustin is the only backup point guard who could make a strong case for being a better value than Harris, who is averaging 8.0 points and 4.0 assists in 18.6 minutes per game while serving as the Mavs’ best backcourt defender. Augustin, who signed in December for the veteran’s minimum, has helped the Bulls survive without superstar Derrick Rose by averaging 14.3 points and 5.2 assists for Chicago.
To put their value into perspective, here’s a list of players on veteran’s minimum contracts who are averaging at least 18 minutes with PERs of 16.0 or better for playoff contenders: Augustin, Harris and Memphis’ James Johnson. That’s it.
"Dirk played great. He really led our team tonight," Carlisle told reporters. "Our guys played with some real emotion. They knew the importance of the game.
"Dirk was great from start to finish. Look, 12-for-14 is ridiculous, and 4-for-4 from 3. It's hard to do much better than that."
It's quite a difference from a day earlier. Nowitzki said he was "passive" in a loss to the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday. He finished the game with only 12 points on 4-of-11 shooting. He had only four shots in the first half Tuesday. He was 4-of-5 from the field after the first quarter of Wednesday's win.
"I just wanted to set the tone early," Nowitzki told reporters. "I just wanted to be as aggressive as I could and make things happen."
The Associated Press
The big German made 12 of 14 from the field and all four his 3-points attempts to help the Mavs snap a three-game road losing skid.
Trey Burke scored 20 points and Enes Kanter had 18 points and 11 rebounds, but the Jazz wilted down the stretch against Dallas' long-range shooting. The Mavericks converted 13 of 21 3-point attempts while the Jazz went 5 of 26.
On the first possession of the game, Nowitzki rained his trademark one-legged fade-away jumper, which moved him past John Havlicek for 12th place on the NBA's all-time scoring list.
The Dallas Mavericks put an end to a three-game road losing streak with a much-needed 108-101 win over the Utah Jazz.
How it happened: Mavs coach Rick Carlisle loves to say there are circle-the-wagons games. After suffering a disappointing loss to the Golden State Warriors, the game against the Utah Jazz represented another one of those games. The first three quarters the two teams tied the game 14 times and exchanged leads 16 lead changes.
For the longest time, it appeared that the Mavs weren't going to be able to shake the Jazz. A strong surge with less than nine minutes left allowed the Mavericks to gain enough traction to secure the victory.
On the night he passed John Havlicek for 12th place on the all-time scoring list, Dirk Nowitzki got going early. After not playing with authority in the game against Golden State, Nowitzki came out aggressive against Utah as he scored 10 of Dallas' first 14 points. It was the same story as the game continued. The Jazz simply didn't have an answer for Nowitzki. He ended the night with 31 points on 12-of-14 shooting.
Monta Ellis struggled from the field early as he missed seven of his first eight shots, but he found a groove late in the third quarter as he hit three straight. With his shooting woes behind him, Ellis hit five of his final seven shots. Ellis played the role of facilitator early, finishing with 16 points and a team-high 11 assists.
After exiting after only seven minutes against Golden State because of a sore right Achilles, Devin Harris played with the tenacity that the team saw in his previous two games before the setback. Closing minutes were necessary for Harris, but he provided a huge spark off the bench with 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting.
What it means: Dallas has three days off before its next road game in a broken-up trip. It will be the final road game for quite a while as the Mavs will began a season-high eight-game homestand against the Boston Celtics on March 17. It won't be easy in the final game of the trip as they will take on the Oklahoma City Thunder, which has won seven straight and nine of the past 10 regular-season meetings with Dallas. The Mavericks' most recent win over the Thunder in the regular season came at Dallas on Jan. 2, 2012. The Mavericks have dropped five straight road meetings with the Thunder.
Play of the game: An 11-2 burst in the fourth quarter was capped off by Devin Harris. Off a Gordon Hayward missed 3-point shot, Nowitzki grabbed the rebound and threw an outlet pass to Harris, who leaked out. Harris drove to the rim and finished while taking contact from Diante Garrett. He got the layup and foul call, resulting in a six-point swing to give the Mavericks a 91-85 lead.
Stat of the night: The Mavericks are now 5-0 on the second night of back-to-back road games this season. The wins came against Milwaukee and Orlando back in November and Indiana and Detroit in February.
With a fadeaway jumper at the 11:46-mark of the first quarter in his team's game against the Utah Jazz, Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki officially moved past Hall of Famer and Boston Celtics legend John Havlicek.
Nowitzki moved into a tie with Havlicek for 12th place with a 15-foot jumper at the 8:29 mark of the fourth quarter in the team's 108-85 loss to the Golden State Warriors Tuesday night. He eventually finished with 31 points and moved into sole possession of the No. 12 spot on the all-time scoring list in the Mavericks' 108-101 win over the Jazz.
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle began his NBA career in Boston and got to know Havlicek well. He can say without hesitancy that "Hondo" respects Nowitzki.
Recently, Carlisle said, "One thing I can tell you for sure is John Havlicek is a huge fan of Dirk Nowitzki and what he's done in his career, not only individually, but from a team standpoint and a competitive standpoint and wanting to take on the responsibility of winning and losing.
"John was the guy for them for a lot of years. So he understands what that's all about."
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