Mavericks point guard Darren Collison, who has often been a clutch spectator this season, dominated crunch time Friday night.
Collison led the way as the Mavs slammed the door on the Suns. He had seven points, three assists, two rebounds, one steal and no turnovers in the final 6:29 as the Mavs turned a close game into a 109-99 win.
“I thought the last six minutes may have been the best six minutes Collison has played since he’s been here,” coach Rick Carlisle told reporters.
Carlisle stressed that he was impressed with Collison’s defense and decision-making as much as his scoring, if not more. Collison’s troubles keeping bigger point guards from penetrating and tendency to commit critical turnovers have been factors in Carlisle’s decision to give clutch minutes to Derek Fisher before he returned to retirement and Mike James since his arrival from the D-League.
This was the kind of performance by Collison -- who finished with 19 points on 6-for-9 shooting, six rebounds and six assists -- that can help convince Carlisle to keep him on the floor to finish games.
“He caught fire,” sixth man Vince Carter said. “There it is: confidence. Early in the season, he wouldn’t play that way. He wouldn’t respond that way. It’s just experience and confidence. Don’t worry about mistakes. It doesn’t matter. Be aggressive, play aggressive, play confident, and everything else will take care of itself.”
A few more notes from the Mavs’ win in Phoenix:
1. Bench's big assist: The Mavs got 52 points from their bench, with three reserves scoring in double figures.
Carter’s 17 points on 5-for-10 shooting aren’t surprising. He’s been productive off the bench all season and had an especially big January, which is why there’s some trade interest from playoff contenders.
The contribution from Jae Crowder (13 points, 5-7 FG in 26 minutes) has to be considered a bonus. The rookie forward scored in double figures only once in January and had a total of five points on 2-for-12 shooting in the previous four games, one of which he didn’t play due to a coach’s decision.
Center/forward Brandan Wright (11 points, 5-7 FG, six rebounds) scored in double figures for the first time since Dec. 28. He’s been effective in the past few games after returning to the rotation, scoring 28 points on 12-for-20 shooting in 57 minutes.
2. Roddy B. benched: Rodrigue Beaubois didn’t hold on to the backup point guard role for long, getting a DNP-CD a week after he earned more playing time with a 19-point, 16-minute performance against the Spurs.
Beaubois hadn’t been particularly bad the previous two games of the road trip, but he didn’t make a significant impact in the Mavs’ losses to the Trail Blazers and Warriors, either. Carlisle opted to go with 37-year-old James against the Suns.
James, who didn’t play in the previous two games, made a positive impact despite a miserable shooting night (1-for-9 from the floor). He finished with four points, five assists and three rebounds in 17 minutes, and the Mavs were plus-six with him on the floor.
3. Dahntay’s disappointment: The Mavs hope Dirk Nowitzki (strained right adductor) will be ready for Monday night’s game in Oklahoma City, which would allow Shawn Marion to shift to small forward again.
Even if Nowitzki isn’t ready, Carlisle will probably reassess starting Dahntay Jones at small forward, as he has the past two games.
Jones didn’t score in the loss to the Warriors or the win over the Suns. He was 0-for-4 from the floor with three turnovers, two rebounds and one assist in the two games. The Mavs were outscored by 13 in his 13 minutes against the Warriors and by six in his seven minutes against the Suns.
Jones played only two seconds in Friday’s second half, which Crowder started at small forward.