Dallas Mavericks: Dallas Mavericks
The final 2:01 saw Dallas go 0-of-5 from the field with the shots coming from the usual suspects in Nowitzki and Monta Ellis. As a whole, the Mavs simply ran out of gas in the mountains as they went 6-of-20 from the field in the final quarter.
That might be the case, but it’s hard not to jump at the multiple opportunities the Mavs had to win the game down the stretch.
Off a Denver miss, Nowitzki missed a turnaround jumper that could have extended the lead to four. Quickly after Randy Foye delivered a 3-point basket to give Denver the lead, Ellis missed a runner that could have given Dallas a 102-101 lead with 53 seconds left. After another Denver miss, Nowitzki then missed a relatively clean look from 19 feet away. As Denver split a pair of free throws, Ellis had the ball rattle off the rim of a driving shot that could have tied the game. Off the inbounds pass, Nowitzki missed a tough turnaround jumper from 22 feet
The scenarios are pretty much everything you would ask for with those two players, minus actually getting a victory.
“Those two guys are go-to guys,” Carlisle continued. “We’re going to live and die with them making plays. We got some pretty decent looks.”
The next-man-up theory that Carlisle usually preaches to his players had to be installed for his coaches as he was ejected in the second quarter due to arguing with the officials due to a lack of calls for Ellis.
“I didn’t ask for explanation. I thought the foul was excessive. I thought he fouled him and he came down on him extra hard. I’m going to stand up for my players,” Carlisle told reporters. “I thought our coaching staff did a great job keeping the guys together in the second half.”
While Carlisle is a guru when it comes to creating plays for his teammates, the team is aware of how to work within the flow offense. That was apparent as the right guys took the shots at the end of the game.
It’s funny what 24 hours can do to a team. There could have been a feeling of a win-loss for the Mavs as they beat Utah but finished the game plodding their feet. There easily could be a feeling of a loss-win for them after the game against the Nuggets as they battled back and clearly had multiple opportunities to steal the game.
Despite a rough start to the game, Dallas showed the tenacity that was present in the game against Houston. Unfortunately for the Mavericks, they didn’t get the same result.
“I thought we hung in and gave ourselves a chance,” Carlisle continued. “I was proud of them.”
They might not have gotten the result they had against Houston, but if they have Nowitzki and Ellis get another five looks at the basket in end-of-game situations, it’s hard to imagine they’re going to come up empty-handed again.
Let's take a look at the Dallas Mavericks' 102-100 loss to the Denver Nuggets:
How it happened: Mavs coach Rick Carlisle wasn’t happy with the lack of calls for Monta Ellis’ aggressiveness, and Carlisle was ejected with 5:14 left in the second. He probably also wasn’t happy as his team was lethargic in the opening portion of the game.
Dallas started the game early with a zone defense, and the results weren’t optimal as Denver carved up the Mavericks' tired legs. Outside of Dirk Nowitzki and Ellis, Dallas really didn’t have anything going in terms of consistency on offense early. Vince Carter’s recent shooting drought continued in Denver. Entering the game against the Nuggets, Carter was shooting 11-of-33 from the field. He started the game against Denver shooting 1-of-7 from the field. The Mavs allowed the Nuggets to score 65 points in the first half.
Dallas got into the bonus with 6:30 left in the third quarter, allowing the team to keep within striking distance. Going without a headband in the second half, Carter drilled three much-needed shots for the Mavs. They ended up going through a bad drought after Carter’s outburst, missing their next eight shots. Another big shot from Carter signaled an 11-point quarter, bringing the Mavs to within six going into the fourth quarter.
With the shot-clock running down, Ellis knocked down a huge jumper to give the Mavs a quick 89-88 lead with just more than 7 minutes to go in the game. The teams went on the seesaw, as neither could seize control of the game.
Randy Foye hit a 3-pointer from the wing to give Denver a 101-100 lead with just under a minute to go, and the Nuggets were able to secure the win. Despite the loss, Nowitzki answered the challenge and delivered nine big points in the fourth quarter for Dallas. The Mavs will look to settle the score as they face the Nuggets again in Dallas on Monday night.
What it means: Dallas ultimately paid the price for nearly blowing a 28-point lead to the Utah Jazz the previous night. The nature of a back-to-back and having to play in altitude had this pegged to be a “scheduled loss.” Outside of the big three of Nowitzki, Ellis and Carter, the rest of the Mavs were relative no-shows.
Play of the game: Just before the half, as Dallas got the deficit down to single digits, Denver guard Evan Fournier missed a running jump shot with just a minute left to go. There wasn’t a Mav who wanted to box out, and Kenneth Faried went right down the rim for a monster putback slam. Faried had more offensive rebounds than the entire Dallas squad (4-2) in the first half.
Stat of the night: Denver moved to 49-8 over the past four seasons against teams who came into town on the second night of a back-to-back. Only San Antonio has a better record in the same scenario at 50-6.
Mavs 103, Jazz 93 didn't need to be nearly that close.
The plan was for the Mavs' starters to rest for the fourth quarter, which was particularly important on the front end of a tough back-to-back with Dallas making the long flight to Denver after the game. The problem: The Mavs mailed it in after halftime.
"Our first half was very good," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "The second half we gave in to playing the score instead of continuing to work to do things the right way.
"They made runs. We have to give them a lot of credit. They stuck with it, played hard and made big plays. We had to make some plays at the end to win, but it's a win and we'll take it. I don't like the way we played in the second half, but we have between now and tomorrow, 8 o'clock Central Time, to straighten some things out."
The 9-4 Mavs own the fourth-best record in the Western Conference after their fourth consecutive win, so there's certainly plenty to be pleased about after sweeping a three-game homestand.
However, the Mavs' standards are too high to accept their poor execution on both ends of the court in the second half against the 1-13 Jazz, who have lost nine games by double digits already this season.
Owner Mark Cuban informed Nowitzki of Morey’s presumably sarcastic text message at the time, which was hours after Dwight Howard decided to sign with Houston over the Mavs and other suitors. Nowitzki, who has a no-trade clause and has made it clear that he intends to play his entire career for the Mavs, hadn’t really given the subject a lot of thought until he was asked about it Friday night following Cuban’s pregame revelation to the media.
“I wasn’t really worried about it much, to be honest,” Nowitzki said after the Mavs improved to 9-4—a game ahead of Houston in the West standings – with a 103-93 win over the Utah Jazz. “I guess it stays longer in Cuban’s mind. To me, it was kind of in and out.
“We were frustrated at the time, but I think then we did some great moves, signing Jose [Calderon] first and then [Monta] and the rest of the gang. So I didn’t even think twice about it and then kind of moved along my way. I guess Cubes doesn’t forget that easy.”
Dalembert’s dandy: Center Samuel Dalembert scored a season-high 18 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, blocked two shots and made all eight of his shots from the floor.
“I just saw that,” Dalembert said when asked about his perfect shooting percentage. “I was surprised, too.”
It marked the most field goal attempts for Dalembert in a game without a miss in his career. He twice was 7-of-7 from the floor during his Philadelphia tenure.
Ouch: Dalembert was wincing and holding his side when he left the floor in the final minute of the game. He took an inadvertent elbow to the ribs from Utah center Enes Kanter.
Dalembert iced his ribs, which were already tender from an elbow a few games ago, for several minutes after the game. He said he’ll wear a padded vest for Saturday night’s game in Denver.
“I tried to go out there like Robocop,” Dalembert joked. “I’m going to wear a pad next game. I learned my lesson.”
Ideally, the Mavs starters could have spent the fourth quarter icing their knees and resting in preparation for Saturday night’s game against the Denver Nuggets in Colorado, but Dallas didn’t bury the Utah Jazz after building a big lead.
The Jazz’s lone lead occurred when Utah scored the first bucket of the game. The Mavs led by 15 in the first quarter and 28 in the second quarter and pretty much put it in cruise control from that point.
Utah (1-13) twice trimmed the deficit to five points -- the latter occurrence with 4:41 remaining in the fourth quarter -- keeping it close enough for Mavs coach Rick Carlisle to stick with his regular rotation. An and-1 turnaround jumper by Dirk Nowitzki, which bumped the Mavs’ lead back to 11 after the free throw, essentially served as the dagger.
Monta Ellis led the Mavs with 26 points, on 8-of-19 shooting, and six assists. Center Samuel Dalembert had his first double-double for the Mavs, scoring a season-high 18 points on 8-of-8 shooting and grabbing 12 rebounds. Nowitzki also scored 18 points despite an off shooting night (5-of-14 from the floor).
The Mavs’ defense was dreadful in the second half, when Utah’s Marvin Williams scored 16 of his team-high 19 points. The Jazz shot 59.5 percent from the floor and scored 59 points after halftime.
What it means: The Mavs (9-4) have the fourth-best record in the Western Conference as they head to Denver for the second game of a back-to-back. Dallas is one of five teams which is still undefeated at home this season, joining the Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers, Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs. After sweeping this week’s three-game home stand, the Mavs are 7-0 at the American Airlines Center, their best home start since opening 10-0 in 2003-04.
Play of the game: The fast break started when Dalembert denied Derrick Favors’ two-hand dunk attempt. It ended with Shawn Marion throwing down a vicious one-hand jam over Utah big man Enes Kanter. Jose Calderon fed Marion, who filled the left lane on the break, for the bucket that stretched the Mavs’ lead to 20-6.
Stat of the night: Nine of the Jazz’s 13 losses have come by double-digit margins.
Dirk Nowitzki: He’s one of the premier power forwards in NBA history, and the 35-year-old has looked as though he’s still in his prime over the last week. Nowitzki averaged 25.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists while shooting 59.3 percent from the floor and 47.6 percent from 3-point range while the Mavs won three of four games. He set a season-high 10 rebounds in Monday’s win over the Washington Wizards. He followed that up with a season-high 35 points in Wednesday’s win over the Houston Rockets, including 14 in the fourth quarter while the Mavs rallied from 14 down.
Jae Crowder: The second-year forward got off to a red-hot start, but Crowder has cooled off considerably. He scored a total of only nine points in the last four games, seven of which came in Saturday’s win over the Orlando Magic. Crowder really struggled in his only start of the season, scoring two points on 1-of-8 shooting in Monday’s win over the 76ers. The Mavs were held scoreless for more than five minutes to start that game, with Crowder missing four shots and committing two turnovers during that span. He is 1-of-14 from 3-point range over the last seven games, but he’s still shooting 42.4 percent from beyond the arc this season.
Marion received treatment over the past two days after suffering his injury during Wednesday's win over the Houston Rockets. He finished the game against the Rockets, scoring the go-ahead points on a corner 3-pointer with 47.7 seconds remaining.
Or have you forgotten how good O.J. Mayo was at the beginning of last season? As is the case with Monta Ellis now, there was discussion in Dallas as Thanksgiving neared a year ago about Mayo possibly making his first All-Star team and emerging as a competent co-star for Dirk Nowitzki.
Mayo at the 12-game mark: 21.8 points per game on 49.4 percent shooting from the field.
Ellis at the 12-game mark: 23.3 points per game on 49.5 percent shooting from the field.
"I will. I will," Ellis said after his spectacular 37-point, eight-assist performance in Wednesday's comeback win over the Houston Rockets. "Only thing I've got to do is continue to make the right plays and don't try to force anything."
The statistics are awfully similar in a limited sample size. What makes Ellis different than Mayo? Why do the Mavs believe this shooting guard can keep it going?
Let's look at a few of the biggest factors:
Dirk dynamic: Mayo put up big numbers while Dirk Nowitzki was watching from the bench or his couch while recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery. As strange as it sounds, Mayo never meshed with the sweetest-shooting 7-footer in NBA history who happens to be as unselfish a superstar as you'll find.
In fairness to Mayo, Nowitzki wasn't himself for the majority of last season. He really didn't resemble a premier power forward until the final 30 games. But a big part of the problem was Mayo's struggles as a pick-and-roll ballhandler.
Ellis relishes that role and ranks among the NBA's most explosive, effective pick-and-roll initiators, especially when he gets the extra space that typically comes when Nowitzki is setting a pick and popping to one of his sweet spots.
Ellis has a sense of timing and feel for spacing, traits Mayo simply doesn't possess. Ellis' ability to facilitate (5.7 assists per game) has impressed the Mavs as much as his ability to finish in the lane.
"Even on nights when he's not scoring that well, his ability to make plays for everyone else is what sets him apart," Nowitzki said. "His decision-making has been great. What I've seen so far, sometimes his shot might not be going so well, but he can give us [penetration] every night."
“Hopefully, not serious,” coach Rick Carlisle told reporters Thursday. “But if something happens and he can’t go tomorrow, everybody’s going to jump up one spot on the food chain. And the next guy is going to have to be ready at every position. Hopefully that’s not the case. But if it does, that’s where we are.
“One player out of the rotation can completely change how a team looks and functions, and we have to be ready for those situations.”
The 35-year-old Marion, the Mavs’ best defender, is averaging 12.7 points and a team-high 7.7 rebounds in 32.3 minutes per game this season. He starts at small forward and often slides to power forward when Dirk Nowitzki rests.
If Marion is unable to play, Vince Carter or Jae Crowder would start in his place. The Mavs are careful to keep the 36-year-old Carter’s minutes in the mid-20s, so Crowder’s role could expand significantly, particularly since he has played some power forward as well. Marion’s potential absence could also lead to Wayne Ellington getting his first playing time since Nov. 8.
Marion not only finished Wednesday’s game, but he scored five points and grabbed a rebound in the final 80 seconds as the Mavs completed their comeback. His 3-pointer with 47.7 seconds remaining gave the Mavs the lead for good.
All indications are that the Dallas Mavericks are going to be awfully hard to beat at the American Airlines Center this season.
It hasn’t happened yet. The Mavs are 6-0 at home after Wednesday night’s heart-pounding comeback win over the Houston Rockets. That puts Dallas in pretty good company. The Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder are the only other teams still undefeated at home this season.
This is the best season-opening home winning streak by the Mavs since 2007-08, when they also went 6-0 at the AAC to start the season. The Mavs won their first 12 home games in 2002-03 and their first 10 in 2003-04.
“For every team to get confident, you’ve got to win at home,” point guard Jose Calderon said. “The NBA is getting harder every day to win on the road, so if you can take care of these [home] games, it’s amazing. You beat a team like Houston, even more.”
Hundreds of fans in the sellout crowd didn’t stick around for the electrifying finish Wednesday night, departing when Dallas was down double digits early in the fourth quarter. The thousands who stuck around, however, made their presence felt during the Mavs’ rally.
Players in the locker room after the win talked about the fans giving the game a playoff vibe by standing and screaming down the stretch.
“The crowd really gave us a boost that last four and a half minutes in the fourth quarter,” said Monta Ellis, who played in front of a lot of empty seats the last season and a half in Milwaukee. “They got loud every time we scored and we just got pumped about it because we were getting stops, going to the other end and scoring and the crowd was going wild. They did give us a boost tonight.”
The Mavs are giving their home crowds ample reason to get excited.
But for Vince Carter to get in on the act?
That’s what happened during a timeout in the second quarter Wednesday. Carter interrupted Howard’s one-sided discussion with an official to loudly and repeatedly tell the Rockets center that he was “the biggest crybaby I know.”
Carter, an Orlando resident who has played countless summer pickup games with Howard and spent a season and change as his teammate with the Magic, said after the game that they’re buddies. But Carter certainly didn’t back off his comment.
“All the time,” Carter said of Howard’s whining to officials. “He always talks about how I’m a crybaby. I was like, ‘Yo, you’re the biggest crybaby I know.’ And then later, he’s like, ‘Yo, why’d you say that to me?’ But I know Dwight. It’s all good, but he is [a crybaby].
“I mean, he takes a lot of punishment, but I’m like, ‘Yo, c’mon Dwight, c’mon. You elbowed, you’re sitting in the paint the entire time. What are you whining about?’ He told me to stop crying. I was like, ‘What? Are you serious?’”
Coach Rick Carlisle referred to it as a “defensive pillow fight.” Then, suddenly, the Mavs started throwing some real defensive haymakers.
The Mavs’ offensive numbers, especially from Monta Ellis (37 points) and Dirk Nowitzki (35), were awesome. But Dallas didn’t look like it had a chance to beat the Rockets until the Mavs buckled down defensively.
Once the smoke cleared, the scoreboard read Mavs 123, Rockets 120.
How the heck did the Mavs hold the Rockets to 19 points in the fourth quarter, less than half of Houston’s total from the first quarter? How did a Houston team that shot 64.9 percent in the first 36 minutes go 5-of-19 from the floor in the final frame?
“Really what won us the game in the fourth quarter was our scrambling mentality on defense,” Nowitzki said. “We trapped James [Harden] off the pick-and-roll, we trapped Dwight [Howard] on the block and just had to scramble out of there. That actually gave us some life, some momentum, some energy, and then we carried it through to the win.”
The Mavs had no answers for Howard (33 points, 12-16 FG), Harden (23 points, 6-14 FG, eight assists) or Chandler Parsons (21 points, 7-10 FG, 11 assists) for most of the game. That changed when coach Rick Carlisle went to a zone defense with the Mavs trailing by 14 points to start the fourth quarter.
The Mavs held Houston, which was playing the second game of a back-to-back, to three points for a span that lasted more than five minutes. That allowed Dallas to put itself in position to pull off the comeback.
Ellis scored a season-high 37 points on 13-of-18 shooting. Nowitzki scored a season-high 35 points on 13-of-20 shooting. They were at their best in the fourth quarter, combining for 22 points and only a pair of missed shots while the Mavs rallied from a 14-point deficit in the final frame to pull out a statement win over their Interstate 45 rivals.
"If me and Dirk are going like that," Ellis said, "the other team has a problem."
It's not as if Houston has been the only team to have a problem defending this duo.
Ellis ranks eighth in the league with 23.3 points per game. Nowitzki (20.6) ranks 20th. The only higher-scoring tandems in the league are Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and Minnesota's Kevin Love and Kevin Martin.
The 8-4 Mavs weren't projected to be legitimate contenders, but the offensive success of Ellis and Nowitzki can't be considered too surprising. After all, Nowitzki is the 15th-leading scorer of all-time after passing Reggie Miller during the second quarter Wednesday night. And Ellis has the highest career scoring average of any active player who hasn't been an All-Star.
DALLAS -- Here's a quick look at the Dallas Mavericks' 123-120 victory over the Houston Rockets:
How it happened: The Mavericks pulled off a miracle comeback to beat the Rockets in a Wild West shootout.
After trailing by 18 at one point in the third quarter and 14 to start the fourth, the Mavs somehow mustered the ability to slow down the Rockets and caught fire in the final period.
Monta Ellis (37 points, eight assists, 13-18 FG) and Dirk Nowitzki (35 points, 13-20 FG) were both spectacular while putting up season-high point totals, but that wouldn't have mattered without an amazing defensive performance in the fourth quarter by Dallas, which looked helpless on that end of the court for the first three quarters.
Dallas outscored Houston by a 36-19 margin in the fourth quarter. The Mavs held Houston to only three points in the first 5:12 of the fourth quarter, and the Rockets were 5-of-19 from the field in the quarter after shooting 64.9 percent in the first 36 minutes.
Houston got monster games from Dwight Howard (33 points, 11 rebounds, 12-16 FG) and Chandler Parsons (21 points, 11 assists, 7-10 FG). James Harden had 23 points and eight assists. However, Houston's star trio went ice cold in the fourth, combining to make only 2 of 11 shots from the field.
Harden missed a potential tying free throw with 8.4 seconds left and a potential tying 3-pointer on the final possession.
Nowitzki, as he has done so many times over the years, dominated down the stretch. He scored 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting in the fourth. Ellis had eight points and three assists in the quarter, highlighted by him finding Shawn Marion wide open in the corner for the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:20 left.
What it means: The Mavs have a statement win on their résumé, pulling off the stunning comeback against the Rockets. Dallas improved to 8-4 and remained undefeated at the American Airlines Center after six home games. Houston fell to 8-5.
Play of the game: For all of Ellis' scoring, a shot he created for a teammate was the biggest play of the game. Ellis drove the baseline, drew two defenders and made a leaping pass to a wide-open Marion for a corner 3 with 47.7 seconds left that gave the Mavs their first lead since the opening minute of the game.
Stat of the night: The Rockets' 40 points in the first are the most allowed by the Mavs in a quarter this season. The previous high was 38 in the first quarter by the Rockets during the Mavs' Nov. 1 loss in Houston. The Rockets' 68 points in the first half is also the most allowed by the Mavs in a half this season, surpassing the 61 the Rockets scored by halftime in the previous meeting.
But banging with Dwight Howard won’t even be the most difficult aspect of Samuel Dalembert’s job when the Mavs meet the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night.
“The post-up game is not really something you see. I don’t see them throw the ball on the post for him to go one-on-one. It’s just wall down in the middle of the paint and throw the ball high to him. That’s pretty hard to stop, especially when you have a small on the back end trying to grab you and defend you. It’s pretty easy. You just foul him and send him to the free throw line.”
The payoff of playing for Houston coach Kevin McHale, one of the best back-to-the-basket players in NBA history, hasn’t happened yet for Howard.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, Howard is averaging only 5.5 points per game on post-up plays this season, slightly less than he averaged last season in Los Angeles and a steep drop from the double digits he averaged on post-ups in Orlando. He’s also averaging only 0.59 points per post-up play, the fourth-worst rate among the 39 players with at least 30 post-up opportunities this season.
Howard’s presence isn’t the primary reason the Rockets rank second in the league in scoring offense with 108.8 points per game. In fact, Howard ranks third among the Rockets in scoring, behind James Harden and Jeremy Lin and just ahead of Chandler Parsons. The Mavs’ defensive game plan begins with trying to limit the damage by Harden and Lin with dribble penetration.
“That’s a tough thing when you have that,” said Dalembert, who will also have his hands full keeping the league's leading rebounder off the offensive glass. “As we work on the defensive scheme, I’m just going to have to limit the penetration from Harden and at the same time run back fast enough to get to Dwight. It’s going to be a long night for me.”
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett at Mavericks media day to discuss his expectations for the upcoming season.
Play Podcast Mark Cuban joins Galloway and Company to discuss the Mavericks' new GM Gersson Rosas and much more.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss Mark Cuban's comments from Las Vegas about the Mavericks' offseason, how he sees the team without Dwight Howard and more.
Play Podcast Marc Stein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why the Mavericks didn't want to match Cleveland's offer to Andrew Bynum, what's next for the Mavs and the possibility of Dirk Nowitzki ending his career elsewhere.
Play Podcast Jeff Platt fires quick-hitters at Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon in the weekly sports standoff about Andrew Bynum, the Mavs' current backcourt, a potential Nelson Cruz suspension and more.
Play Podcast ESPN Los Angeles' Ramona Shelburne joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why she thinks Andrew Bynum got a bad rap in Los Angeles and how he would fit in with the Mavericks.
Play Podcast Buy, sell or hold? If Dwight Howard goes to another team, what are the Mavs' options? The guys take a look at a list of potential fallback options.
Play Podcast ESPN's Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the latest news on the Mavericks' meeting with Dwight Howard.