Carlisle wanted the Mavs to see the critical sequence that happened with a little less than two minutes remaining in the third quarter. He wanted to show them an example of the kind of effort they’ll need on a consistent basis if they’re going to have any hope of making a playoff push.
“It’s as good a hustle sequence as we’ve had all year,” Carlisle said. “I thought the timing of it couldn’t have been more key in the game.”
Or more key in the season, really.
Orlando had dropped 25 of its last 28 entering the game – including a 13-point loss the previous night to the Charlotte Bobcats, the lone team in the league with a worse record. This would have been an absolutely disastrous loss for Dallas.
And a loss looked like a very distinct possibility with 1:56 to play in the third quarter, when the Mavs’ 16-point lead from the first half was a distant memory, having turned into a six-point deficit. Then Jameer Nelson beat Mayo to a loose ball in the Dallas backcourt and fed Redick for what looked like an easy layup -- until Mayo came flying in from behind to pin the ball on the glass.
Mayo ripped down the rebound, leaving Redick and Nelson in his dust as he pushed the ball up the right side of the floor and launched a lob pass to Carter from several feet behind the 3-point line. The 36-year-old Carter went vintage Vinsanity, soaring to snatch the pass with two hands and throw it down.
The supposedly sellout crowd at the American Airlines Center went from silent to insane in a matter of seconds, waking up with Mayo’s block and getting worked into a frenzy with Carter’s finish.
“The crowd wasn’t really into it much because we gave them nothing to cheer for,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “That play really turned everything around.”
That play sparked a 10-3 run – featuring a couple of Carter 3-pointers – to close the third quarter and give the Mavs the lead for good.
“We had to pretty much get juiced up, man,” said Mayo, who had 13 points, four rebounds, four assists and two blocks. “They were making shots and we were pretty much playing their pace. We wanted to get our crowd into it. … We wanted to get some juice in the building and start playing with a little more energy.”
Nowitzki mentioned that the whole sequence wouldn’t have happened if Mayo had gone to the floor to fight for the loose ball in the first place. However, Mayo more than made up for that with the spectacular, extra-effort, defense-offense sequence.
Mayo’s hustle once Nelson got the ball made for a perfect example of what Carlisle wants from the Mavs. The play wasn’t quite perfect, however.
Let’s just say there have been better lob passes thrown in NBA history. This one was a bit too high and a bit too hard, but the 2000 slam dunk champion cranked up the time machine to make it work.
“I’m dumb sometimes,” Carter said with a smile after his 14-point, eight-assist performance. “I’ll try to get it anyway. I believe if somebody throws me a lob, that’s the respect factor. I’m going to go get it -- well, try to. It just stuck in my hand long enough to bring it to the rim.
“If you call for it and they throw it, you’ve got to go get it. That’s your responsibility.”
It’s the responsibility of all of the Mavs to play as hard as possible for every second of the rest of the season. That’s what made Mayo’s game-changing sequence so beautiful to Carlisle.
It also made for a heck of a highlight, although Mayo scoffed at the suggestion that it might have been the best block of his career.
“It was just J.J. Redick, man,” Mayo said.
It was just the Magic, man, but the Mavs need every win they can get. And they need that kind of maximum effort all the time.