DALLAS – Dirk Nowitzki’s overtime dominance doesn’t happen unless the Mavericks’ most maligned clutch player came through with the game on the line.
O.J. Mayo had two huge buckets in the final 82 seconds of regulation to give the Mavs a chance to pull off Tuesday night’s thrilling upset over the Clippers.
Yes, the same Mayo whose clutch turnovers have caused Mavs fans to scream countless cusswords over the course of an often frustrating season.
Yes, the same Mayo whose production has plummeted all season long against the West’s best teams.
None of that mattered once Mayo got matched up against the smaller Chris Paul in crunch time. Nor did the fact that Mayo made only three of his first nine shots from the floor.
Mayo’s first big bucket was an and-1 turnaround off a post-up that tied the score with 1:22 remaining. The second was one of the most memorable plays of the Mavs season, with Mayo spinning away from the help defense to beat Paul on the baseline before flipping in a pretty lefty layup to tie it up again with less than a second remaining.
“Guys that are 'players' – and I put players in quotes – they don’t worry about their shooting percentage,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “You’ve got to stay in the now and you’ve got to trust all the years that you’ve practiced and trained. In those situations, O.J. is one of those guys that all he’s thinking about is how to get the ball in the basket. He looks at it as an opportunity.
“Guys that are wired that way, whenever you can get ‘em, you want to get ‘em.”
This isn’t out of character for Mayo. He’s been a prolific clutch scorer all season. According to NBA.com’s advanced stats, Mayo ranks eighth in the league with 109 clutch points (scored in last five minutes with the score within five points). Yet his most memorable crunch-time plays have been turnovers, a league-high three of which came in the final 10 seconds of losses, and missed free throws.
Those failures didn’t instill any fear in Mayo.
“He wants to win and he’s not scared of the moment,” Elton Brand said. “He’s putting himself in situations to tie the game. Some guys shy away from it. He’s put himself in situations all year. Sometimes he succeeded; sometimes he didn’t. That’s the mentality he has to have.”
Mayo’s description of his crunch-time mindset: “Keep being aggressive. Obviously, you’re not going to make every shot. I want to. … Just keep being in that attack mentality and try to win ballgames.”
Mayo played a major role in winning this one.
A few more notes from the Mavs’ most impressive win of the season:
1. BOOOOOO!!!!: Mavs fans made their feelings for Lamar Odom loud and clear, booing as soon as he took off his warmups to check into the game and again every single time he touched the ball.
Odom earned that wrath with his inexcusable lack of effort during his 50-game stint with the Mavs last season, which ended after Mark Cuban finally got sick of it and essentially kicked him off the team, albeit with pay.
Of course, Odom shrugged it off after his six-point, six-rebound, 19-minute outing in the Clippers’ loss.
“I’ve played in really hostile environments all my life,” Odom said. “It’s sports. You got to expect that. That’s what we love about sports.
“I’ve played in the championship round before, you know what I’m saying? In Boston. That’s what happens. That’s what we really love in the game. That’s the way it’s going to be in the playoffs for everybody.”
2. Big D in Dirk: It’s natural to focus on the fact that Nowitzki scored a season high 33 points on 12-of-21 shooting. Especially since he shouldered the offensive load in overtime, singlehandedly outscoring the Clippers while accounting for the Mavs’ first eight points of the extra period.
Just don’t overlook Dirk’s contribution on defense.
“If you remember, he was the one out there trapping Chris Paul to get it out of his hands,” Brand said. “He’s out there running, trapping, rotating and then coming down and scoring. It was great, great leadership by Dirk.”
3. Brand banging: Elton Brand joked that he feels like a leper because the Mavs coaching staff is so fixated on making sure he gets rest. They won’t even let him do much during shootarounds.
Brand needs all the energy he can muster to bang with guys like Blake Griffin.
Brand more than held his own against the young, explosive All-Star power forward. He held Griffin, who scored only 14 points on 4-of-12 shooting, in check.
“It’s a team effort any time you try to stop a scorer like that,” said Brand, who had eight points, five rebounds and four blocks in 25 minutes.
That’s a swell thing for Brand to say, but the stats don’t lie. Griffin had 11 points on 3-of-6 shooting in the 21 minutes he was on the floor and Brand was watching from the bench. In the 15 minutes they were matched up, which included the majority of OT, Griffin scored only three points on 1-of-6 shooting.