Dallas Mavericks: Monta Ellis
But the Dallas Mavericks beat the team with the best record in the Eastern Conference anyway.
Considering that the Indiana Pacers are the NBA’s best defensive team, it’d be easy to give them credit for Nowitzki going 3-of-14 from the floor, matching his worst shooting performance of the season. The reality, though, is that the big German missed some shots that are usually gimmes for him.
“I had a couple of wide-open looks, especially there in the second quarter,” Nowitzki said after the Mavs’ 105-94 win Sunday night. “Just a couple of wide-open 15-, 16- footers that just didn’t go down today. I had a layup that just kind of rolled around, hit every part of the rim and rolled out. There’s nights like this, but the team picked me up. They were fantastic.”
Devin Harris and Monta Ellis, in particular, picked up Nowitzki. They had 20 points apiece, with Ellis knocking down a couple of clutch jumpers down the stretch to make sure there’d be no comeback by the Pacers.
DENVER -- Sound the alarm. Press the panic button.
There’s no such thing as overreacting to a loss as dreadful as the Dallas Mavericks’ 115-110 setback Wednesday night in Colorado.
OK, so it’s not a season ender. But maybe some shouting and screaming will wake up a team that sure doesn’t appear to realize it is fighting for its playoff life.
The Mavs desperately needed a win after losing their last two games. They were facing a Denver Nuggets squad that had lost 11 of its previous 12 games.
“I’ve been saying all along, if we don’t play hard, we can get torched by anybody,” said Dirk Nowitzki, whose 27 points were wasted. “We’ve got to compete on defense.”
This was supposed to be the easy game in one of the Mavs’ most difficult stretches of the season. If the Nuggets gash them like this, how the heck can the Mavs stop the bleeding against the Portland Trail Blazers, Indiana Pacers and Golden State Warriors over the next week?
The only good news for Dallas on Wednesday night is that the Memphis Grizzlies lost. So the Mavs maintain a 1 1/2-game cushion for the West’s final playoff spot. However, a humiliating outing like this could be the turning point for a season headed south.
“You’re always worried when you lose three games in a row with 20 left and the playoff standings the way that they are,” Nowitzki said. “So, yeah, are we worried? Sure. Are we going to do anything about it? We’ll see this weekend.”
That’s about as directly as the face of the franchise can challenge his teammates.
A loss under any circumstances to the Nuggets could be considered a catastrophe. But Wednesday night’s showing was especially disturbing because Dallas’ starters showed an inexcusable lack of basketball character.
“Embarrassing,” is the word Nowitzki used to describe Dallas’ effort in the first quarter.
“We didn’t come out to play,” guard Monta Ellis said. “No energy.”
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle agreed.
“We were too casual to start the game,” he said. “We got knocked back on our heels and our butts.”
A failure to compete is never acceptable. It’s absolutely inexplicable for a veteran-heavy team well aware that its fight for a potential playoff berth will probably come down to the wire.
Yet the Mavs let a Nuggets team with nothing to play for punk them to start the game. Denver grabbed 12 of the game’s first 13 rebounds and repeatedly beat the loafing Mavs down the floor for easy buckets.
“I know what didn’t happen,” Nowitzki said. “We just didn’t run back. We didn’t get any stops. They got open shots. They got offensive rebounds. They got really whatever they wanted. It’s as easy as that.”
Starting center Samuel Dalembert, whose effort is about as consistent as the stock market, was so lackadaisical that he didn’t play a second in the second half. Based on defensive merit, Ellis and backcourt partner Jose Calderon should have been riding pine, too.
In fact, Carlisle’s biggest regret after the humbling loss in front of an ESPN audience -- and a crowd that featured entire sections that were empty -- was that he didn’t sit his starters after seeing them mail it in for the first few minutes of the game.
“I take full responsibility for this loss because at the beginning of the game we weren’t into it and it was my mistake,” Carlisle said, his voice rising with anger. “I should have subbed all the guys out of the game that were in there that gave up 12 points in three and a half minutes or whatever it was. Not doing that was a major mistake.
“I’ve been allowing guys to play through things. I believe that these guys would snap out of it, and we didn’t.”
Can the Mavs snap out of it this season? Stay tuned.
Now comes the Denver Nuggets' Ty Lawson, who didn't look real rusty in his first game back after missing a few weeks because of a fractured rib, tuning up for Wednesday's game against the Mavs with a 31-point, 11-assist performance Monday against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Mavericks point guard Jose Calderon, left, has had trouble this season keeping up with elite point guards such as Steph Curry.
Jose Calderon, who occasionally resembles a bullfighter on defense, would have his hands full with all of these explosive point guards if he could stay close enough to get a paw on them.
"For sure, it's an individual challenge," Calderon said. "You don't want to get beat there by anybody. You're going to play as hard as you can against great players in this league. I feel pretty comfortable. The team has been helping me a lot. This year, some days are going to be a tougher challenge. You feel better or worse. But at the end of the day, it's about team defense."
The Mavs were well aware of Calderon's defensive limitations when they signed him to a four-year, $29 million deal last summer. They considered his lack of lateral quickness a flaw they could live, considering it came in a package with his savvy offensive decision-making and elite perimeter shooting.
Calderon has been as billed for the Mavs, for better and worse. He ranks third in the league in 3-point percentage (44.9) and fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.94-to-1). He also has the worst defensive rating (107.1) among guards on winning teams.
While Calderon is a plus overall, it will be especially difficult to mask his defensive flaws during this stretch, which started with Parker's 22-point, seven-rebound performance Sunday in the Spurs' win.
Is Rick Carlisle the best pure coach we have ever had in the Metroplex? Obviously Landry and Jimmy are the gold standards, but what Carlisle did in winning the title with that roster and what he has done subsequently is pretty darn amazing. -- Jared (Fort Worth)
All due respect to Carlisle, and that’s a ton, but let’s tap the brakes a bit. Under Tom Landry, the Cowboys had 20 consecutive winning seasons, made five Super Bowls and won two championships. And he essentially served as his own offensive and defensive coordinator, coming up with revolutionary concepts on both sides of the ball.
Having said that, I firmly believe that the job done by Carlisle and his staff during the Mavs’ 2011 championship run is the best coaching job in local sports history. It might be the best in NBA history.
It started with Carlisle’s psychological genius after the Mavs’ fourth-quarter collapse in Portland and ended with the Mavs making mush of LeBron James’ brain in the Finals. Oh, and Carlisle swept Phil Jackson into retirement in between, keyed in part by an unconventional Dirk-and-reserves lineup that the Lakers had no answer for.
Carlisle is definitely on the Metroplex coaches Mt. Rushmore (forgive me). But he needs another strong decade or so to be considered at the same level as Landry.
How much involvement does Rick Carlisle have with personnel decisions? It seems a little uncertain as to how the Mavs power structure works between Mark Cuban, Donnie Nelson and Carlisle and who actually puts the team together. -- Jason (Dallas)
Ultimately, Cuban makes the decisions because he signs the checks. It’s his money, and he’s the lead guy when it comes to the Mavs’ cap management. But Cuban trusts his basketball people to guide him, and that includes Carlisle.
Nelson does the heavy lifting when it comes to scouting and researching potential personnel moves, but Carlisle gets to give as much input as he wants. Cuban makes suggestions -- often based on analytics -- for his basketball people to consider. However, Cuban values their knowledge and isn’t so egotistical to think his hoops expertise approaches their level.
SAN ANTONIO -- The Dallas Mavericks' losing streak to the San Antonio Spurs stands at eight games after a 112-106 loss Sunday night.
How it happened: The Mavs simply couldn’t get enough defensive stops.
Whether it was Tony Parker running the pick-and-roll, Tim Duncan posting up or other Spurs shooting from the perimeter, the Dallas defense had all kinds of problems, which always seems to be the case against San Antonio.
Parker, who played for the first time since before the All-Star break, carved up the Mavs for 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting and seven assists. Duncan, still a fundamentally sound force at the age of 37, had a 17-point, nine-rebound performance. San Antonio was 10-for-27 from 3-point range while shooting 46.4 percent from the floor, with a total of six Spurs scoring in double figures.
The Mavs’ two most experienced players put up enough points to keep the visitors in the game.
Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavs with 22 points on 9-for-17 shooting, highlighted by a few one-legged fadeaways that were high-degree-of-difficulty looks, even by his standards. Sixth man Vince Carter scored 21 points on 9-for-16 shooting and hit half of his six 3-point attempts.
Monta Ellis added 17 points, including a driving layup to pull Dallas within five points of the Spurs with 1:19 remaining. But Parker responded with a dagger drive, flipping in an over-the-shoulder lefty layup on the ensuing possession for San Antonio.
What it means: The Mavs remain in seventh place in the Western Conference standings, failing to take advantage of the Golden State Warriors’ loss earlier Sunday evening to the Toronto Raptors. After a strong run during a soft stretch of their schedule, the Mavs have lost two straight games to teams with winning records, dropping to 36-25. The Spurs, the West’s second-place team, improved to 43-16 by extending their winning streak over the Mavs to eight straight games.
Play of the game: Duncan didn’t need to get up in the air to make a circus shot with 5:23 remaining in the fourth quarter. After fighting for position inside Brandan Wright, Duncan caught an entry pass from Tiago Splitter on the left side of the basket, got fouled from behind and flipped the ball off the glass on the other side of the hoop. The and-1 bucket and free throw stretched the Spurs’ lead to nine.
Stat of the night: Carter passed Peja Stojakovic for eighth all-time in 3-pointers made. Carter has made 1,762 3s in his career.
Those kinds of games will likely be few and far between for the rest of the regular season with the Mavs facing one of the league’s most difficult schedules for the next month and a half.
For Dallas, the fourth quarter was about as ugly as the bushy beards the .500 edition of the Mavs sported at this time last season. The Mavs scored only 15 points in the final 12 minutes, when they shot an unsightly 25 percent from the floor as the Bulls finished them off.
“We got nothing but good looks,” said Monta Ellis, who led the Mavs with 20 points but was only 7-of-19 from the floor, including 2-of-6 in the fourth quarter. “We missed a lot of layups, a lot of shots at the nail, at the free throw line. We missed a lot of wide-open ones. They just weren’t going down for us.”
Actually, more than anything, the Mavs missed a lot of 3-pointers. They were 2-of-12 from long distance in the fourth quarter, when a Joakim Noah-led Chicago defense made it difficult to get anything done in the paint.
And one of those 3-pointers was by Ellis with 24.9 seconds remaining, when the Mavs needed a miracle to make a comeback.
“They’re a good defensive team,” said Dirk Nowitzki, who was held to 15 points on 7-of-18 shooting. “That’s how they win. They’re smart, they’re long at every position and we weren’t particularly shooting the ball very well tonight.”
Shooting isn’t a problem for the Mavs most nights, as they ranked fourth in the league in offensive rating (108.5 points per 100 possessions), fifth in field goal percentage (47.3) and seventh in 3-point percentage (37.7).
But the Bulls are a much different kind of defensive beast than the Mavs had faced for most of their run of 10 wins in 12 games entering Friday night. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau’s tough-nosed team has the league’s second-best defensive rating (97.7).
That sort of smothering defense, however, is the new norm for the Mavs during this tough stretch of schedule. Four of their next seven opponents -- the San Antonio Spurs, Indiana Pacers, Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder -- feature top-five defenses. Three of those games will be on the road.
“Some nights team miss shots and you have to hang in with grit, guts, defense and rebounding,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said.
That’s how the Bulls, who didn’t lead until late in the third quarter, hung in with the Mavs on Friday night. Then the Bulls turned up the defensive intensity to an even higher level down the stretch -- or the Mavs simply couldn’t get a good look to fall, depending on whom you ask.
The Mavs’ last lead came after Ellis’ steal and breakaway dunk with 5:07 remaining. Dallas followed that with a scoreless drought that lasted longer than four minutes.
“I just figured from there, we’re going to find a way to win,” Nowitzki said, referring to Ellis’ go-ahead bucket. “But we didn’t. You’ve got to give them credit. They kept getting stops.”
The Bulls made it tough on the Mavs. It won’t get much easier Sunday evening in San Antonio.
DALLAS -- The Mavericks’ four-game winning streak was snapped in a 100-91 loss to the Chicago Bulls.
How it happened: The Mavs faded in the fourth quarter as the Bulls tightened the defensive screws.
Chicago held the Mavs to 15 points on 6-of-25 shooting in the final frame. Bulls center Joakim Noah keyed Chicago’s dominant defense, spending most of the quarter in Dirk Nowitzki’s face and coming up with steals on two consecutive possessions at one point.
Nowitzki finished what had been a phenomenal February with an off night, scoring 15 points on 7-of-18 shooting. Monta Ellis led the Mavs with 20 points, but he was only 7-of-19 from the floor.
Power forward Taj Gibson led the Bulls with 20 points and 15 rebounds off the bench.
The Mavs didn’t trail until the Bulls took a 73-72 lead late in the third quarter. Dallas lit it up for most of the first half, going into halftime shooting 48.7 percent from the floor. Vince Carter had 14 points and was 4-of-5 from 3-point range in the first half, but he only scored one point after halftime.
What it means: The Mavs slipped to seventh place in the Western Conference with their loss and the Golden State Warriors’ win over the New York Knicks. Dallas dropped to 36-24, finishing the month of February with a 9-3 record. The Bulls won for the eighth time in nine games, improving to 32-26 and tying the Toronto Raptors for the third best record in the East.
Play of the game: After catching a pick-and-roll pass near the free throw line, Noah delivered a pretty pass to a slashing Gibson, who dunked over Samuel Dalembert and a couple of other Mavs. The bucket stretched the Bulls’ lead to four with a little less than four minutes remaining.
Stat of the night: The Mavs are 4-3 when Nowitzki is held to 15 or fewer points this season.
DALLAS -- So much for the summer discussion about whether Dirk Nowitzki's days as a legitimate go-to guy were over.
All he has done to silence the doubters is bounce back with what might end up being the best shooting season of his surefire Hall of Fame career.
Steve Nash as the only players in NBA history to have multiple such campaigns in their careers. With 23 games to go, Nowitzki is shooting 49.5 percent from the field, 40.3 percent from 3-point range and a league-leading 91.6 percent from free throw line while averaging 21.6 points.
According to one advanced metric, Nowitzki is shooting more efficiently than ever. His effective field goal percentage, which weighs the value of 3-pointers, is a career-best .547. His total shooting percentage, which also takes into account free throws, is .605. That matches the second-best of his 16-year career, tying his MVP season of 2006-07 and behind only the Mavs' 2010-11 title season.
"The guy's a great player," coach Rick Carlisle said. "It shouldn't be shocking that he's having a great year."
Maybe not, but it must be considered at least a mild surprise for Nowitzki to be this efficient after Father Time drew some blood in their fight the past couple of seasons.
The roots of Nowitzki's bounce-back season can be traced to the summer. As Nowitzki worked relentlessly to get in peak physical condition, doing everything in his power to prevent knee problems from sabotaging a third straight season, the Mavs' front office reconstructed his supporting cast.
DALLAS -- The Mavericks cruised to a 108-89 win over the New Orleans Pelicans Wednesday.
How it happened: The Mavs took care of business against a bad team that lost its lone star in the second quarter, when power forward Anthony Davis suffered a sprained left shoulder.
With the league’s leading shot blocker in a sling for most of the game, the Mavs pounded the Pelicans in the paint, where Dallas scored 52 points.
Monta Ellis led the Mavs with 23 points, seven assists and four steals, consistently creating havoc off of drives. Dirk Nowitzki scored 18 points in 27 minutes, and sixth man Vince Carter was even more efficient, finishing with 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting in 21 minutes.
What it means: The Mavs climbed back into sixth place in the Western Conference standings with their win and the Golden State Warriors’ loss to the Chicago Bulls. Dallas improved to 36-23 with its 10th win in 12 games, putting the Mavs a season-best 13 games above .500. The Pelicans dropped to 23-34.
Play of the game: Carter finished a spinning drive to the hoop in the fourth quarter with a pretty southpaw scoop shot. After blowing by Tyreke Evans, Carter spun past big man Jeff Withey in the lane and lofted up a left-handed scoop on the other side of the lane. The ball spun around the rim before falling through the net, adding a little aesthetic touch.
Stat of the night: Jose Calderon made at least one 3-pointer for the 17th consecutive game, matching a career-best streak from earlier this season.
NEW YORK -- Dirk Nowitzki drained a jumper from the top of the key at the buzzer, and the Dallas Mavericks escaped with a 110-108 victory over the New York Knicks on Monday night at Madison Square Garden.
How it happened: After the Mavericks lost a 108-100 lead with 97 seconds remaining, Nowitzki bailed them out. His dominance at MSG continues. He scored just 15 points -- none bigger than the final two.
The Mavericks ended up going 15-for-36 from 3-point range. Vince Carter led the way with a season-high 23 points and went 7-for-12 from 3-point territory. Monta Ellis had 22 points, but needed a season-high 22 shots to get there and had two crucial turnovers which nearly cost the Mavericks what looked like an easy victory. Jose Calderon added 20 points.
What it means: The Mavericks (35-23) swept their three-game road trip and improved to 9-2 in their last 11 games.
Play of the game: Early in the second quarter, Brandan Wright and Devin Harris combined on a brilliant screen-and-roll alley-oop in which Wright used his long wingspan to catch the lob and convert a highlight-reel-caliber two-handed slam.
Stat of the night: 44. That’s how many points Carmelo Anthony had, as stretch forwards continue to give the Mavericks trouble. LeBron James had 42, Thaddeus Young 30 and Josh Smith 32 in consecutive games against Dallas.
What's next: The Mavericks return home to face the New Orleans Pelicans at 7 p.m. CT on Wednesday.
Ellis matched his season high with 13 assists and committed only two turnovers. He played dominant defense -- yes, you read that right -- holding former Milwaukee Bucks backcourt partner Brandon Jennings to two points on 1-of-7 shooting. And Ellis took over the game in the fourth quarter, scoring 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting in the final frame.
"Ellis played a great, great game," coach Rick Carlisle told reporters. "Fantastic defense, great floor game, timely scoring. He was the key player tonight."
Ellis arrived in Dallas with a tarnished reputation as a me-first guy after a miserable season and a half trying to carry mediocre-at-best Bucks teams. Ellis, who wanted to escape Milwaukee so badly that he turned down a three-year, $36 million offer and ended up getting a lot less in free agency, insisted that all he wanted to do was win and welcomed the opportunity to prove it.
This is the kind of night that leaves no question about winning being the priority for Ellis, who has proven a lot of people wrong with his efficiency all season.
The finishing touch wasn’t Ellis’ fourth-quarter scoring. It was him diving on the hardwood to come up with a loose ball with less than 30 seconds to play, eliminating the tiny morsel of hope that the Pistons had of making a miracle comeback.
Ellis’ offensive performance was a sweet blend of patience and aggressiveness. He was a force in the first half despite attempting only two field goals and scoring only two points. He dominated as a penetrating distributor, dishing out 11 assists by halftime, several of which led to easy dunks or layups for Shawn Marion and Samuel Dalembert or wide-open 3s for Dirk Nowitzki and Vince Carter.
When the opportunities opened up for Ellis to score, he pounced, putting the Mavs on his back with his seventh double-digit fourth-quarter point total of the season.
Ellis wasn’t going to let the Mavs lose this game.
Wayne’s work: The Mavs signed Wayne Ellington with the belief that he’d provide strong perimeter defense and solid 3-point shooting off the bench. He’s been a highly paid cheerleader for most of the season, but that appears to be changing.
Ellington, who has more DNP-CDs than 3-pointers made this season, got significant playing time for the second straight game and took advantage of his minutes against the Pistons. Ellington had seven points on 2-of-3 shooting, two rebounds, two assists and a steal in 16 minutes.
The playing time for Ellington is coming at the expense of Jae Crowder, who didn’t get off the bench for the first time this season. That leaves Ellis as the only Mav who has played every game this season.
Reunion Arena reunion: The timing of the Mavs' lone visit of the season to Detroit was fortuitous for two old friends. Former Mavs assistant coach Scott Roth, who forged a close bond with Nowitzki during Dirk's early seasons as a member of Don Nelson's first coaching staff with the Mavs, was just hired by Detroit this week to hop onto the bench beside Pistons interim coach John Loyer and serve as Nowitzki's welcoming committee at The Palace.
So we’ll skip over all the far-fetched trade scenarios.
Would Dirk ever play for another team? Or is it pretty much ride it out with Cuban/Donnie until he doesn't wanna do it anymore? -- Jason (Fort Worth)
I’d take Dirk Nowitzki at his word on this one, and he’s consistently said that he’ll never wear another NBA uniform.
In fact, Nowitzki addressed this again over All-Star Weekend, when he sat down with Grantland.com’s Bill Simmons for a BS Report appearance. Here’s the answer, in Dirk’s own words.
“So I’m sure we’ll find a nice little agreement for both sides where we can have a good team for the following years and I feel I can still play and feel respected, and we’ll go from there.”
The plan is still for Nowitzki to take a significant pay cut -- we’ll find out exactly what that means this summer, and I’m not sure Nowitzki even has a number in mind yet -- and re-sign with the Mavs for two or three more years. He desperately wants to compete for another championship, but he’s dead set on doing it in Dallas.
Maybe it’d be a different story if the Mavs didn’t get to the top of the NBA mountain in 2011. If Dirk didn’t have a ring, he might be tempted to pull a Karl Malone and go elsewhere to chase a championship.
“This might be a whole different issue,” Nowitzki told Simmons. “That’s something I felt like I needed on my resume. Maybe the free agency would be a lot different. I might think about some other moves. But really now, there’s [nothing] to think about.”
I'm optimistically betting the Mavs continue to improve and gel after the All-Star break. The '04-'05 Mavs caught my eye as a possible comparison. That team finished the regular season in the upper echelon of the league offensively and middle of the pack defensively, winning a thrilling first-round playoff series vs. Houston. Would you bet on this current roster winning a playoff series if it can avoid the No. 7-8 seed, or am I reaching on this comparison? -- Ryne (Washington, D.C.)
That’s an interesting comparison, especially considering that it was Jason Terry’s first season in Dallas, like Monta Ellis now. But that Dallas team won 58 games and rolled into the playoffs with home-court advantage in the first round, which obviously isn’t happening this season.
Having said that, as I wrote last week, I’d give the Mavs a puncher’s chance to get out of the first round if they get matched up with the Houston Rockets or Portland Trail Blazers.
It ended up being the Mavs' most inspirational win -- albeit the least aesthetically pleasing -- of the season so far.
None of that mattered to the Mavs on Wednesday night, when they proved they're capable of beating an elite team with grit and guts by walking out of Bankers Life Fieldhouse with an 81-73 win over the Indiana Pacers. Acing a gut-check to go 10 games over .500 is a heck of a way to head into the All-Star break.
"If you look at the whole situation -- us back-to-back, them waiting and all that kind of stuff -- this is a big win for us," coach Rick Carlisle told reporters. "It really is. We needed it, because we had built up good momentum and seemingly last night we just let everything blow to smithereens. And this shows that the guys understand the importance of playing together and playing tough and playing for each other."
The biggest knock on this edition of the Mavs is that it isn't a team built to play tough. The roster is loaded with offensive weapons and light on defenders and dirty-work dudes.
Well, you can't beat the Pacers by playing pretty. That just doesn't work against the NBA's top-ranked defensive team.
A Dallas team that was determined to prove that the five-game winning streak snapped in Charlotte wasn't just fool's gold didn't back down against the East's biggest bullies. They traded pushes and shoves and elbows all night with the Pacers and won the 15-round fight.
How it happened: The Mavs followed up one of their worst defensive performances of the season with their best.
A night after allowing the Charlotte Bobcats to score 114 points, the Mavs held the Pacers to 73 points on 32.1 percent shooting. Dallas didn’t exactly light it up offensively, either, shooting only 35.7 percent from the floor, but the Mavs can be especially proud of this win because it wasn’t pretty.
The Mavs, a team full of finesse players, went elbow for elbow with the NBA’s most physical team and walked out of their gym with the win.
The Pacers, particularly power forward David West, tried unsuccessfully to intimidate the Mavs. West got a technical foul in the final minute of the first half after getting in Dirk Nowitzki’s face. That’s a bitter individual rivalry that dates to West’s days with the New Orleans Hornets, best remembered by West mockingly caressing Nowitzki’s face during the Hornets’ first-round series win over the Mavs in 2008.
Nowitzki’s response this time? He shoved back at West and nailed a high-degree-of-difficulty, one-legged, step-back jumper on the possession after the timeout called to calm things down.
Monta Ellis led the Mavs with 23 points, nine rebounds and six assists. He scored 11 points in the fourth quarter, including 9-of-10 shooting from the free throw line. Nowitzki added 18 points.
The Mavs took the lead for good with an 8-0 run that started with a jumper by Brandan Wright with 5:19 remaining. Wright had two buckets during that spurt. He scored seven points and grabbed four rebounds in the fourth quarter after playing only 44 seconds in the first three frames.
But Dallas’ defense was the story in this game. With Shawn Marion on him most of the game, Pacers superstar Paul George scored only 12 points on 4-of-17 shooting. The Mavs held the Pacers to 11 points in the fourth quarter.
What it means: The Mavs head into the All-Star break on a high note. They have won six of seven games and bounced back from Tuesday night’s blowout loss in Charlotte by handing the Pacers only their third home loss of the season. The Pacers dropped to 40-12, matching the Oklahoma City Thunder for the fewest losses in the league. The Mavs improved to 32-22, which could have them sitting alone in sixth place in the West standings if the Golden State Warriors lose their late game to the Miami Heat.
Play of the game: Vince Carter beat Danny Granger on a backdoor cut to get an inbounds pass, drew a couple of defenders and dished to Wright for the uncontested dunk. That gave the Mavs a 65-62 lead with less than nine minutes to play.
Stat of the night: The Pacers’ 73 points were the fewest allowed by the Mavs since a Feb. 20, 2012, win over the Boston Celtics.
1. Who is the best teammate Dirk Nowitzki has ever had?
Taylor: Jason Terry has to be the best teammate Dirk has had because he usually played his best in the biggest games and he had no fear. The two-man game between Jet and Dirk was as nasty as it gets, and their feel for each other was uncanny. The Mavs have one championship, and they wouldn't have it without Jet, which trumps any other argument you might make. Dirk was terrific in the NBA Finals, but Jet put on a show in Game 6 when it was really all on the line and Dirk was struggling.
MacMahon: Finley and Nash are the only players to make multiple All-Star appearances as Nowitzki’s teammates, with two selections apiece. Of course, Nash’s career peaked after returning to Phoenix, winning the MVP the next two seasons. He still had four fantastic seasons when paired with Nowitzki after a slow start. Dirk got his ring, but it’s still hard not to wonder what might have been if Nash never left Dallas.
2. What was the biggest factor during the Mavs' winning streak?
Taylor: The Mavericks have been one of the best offensive teams all season. When they've been able to put winning streaks together it's because their defense has been good. The problem, of course, is that with Jose Calderon, Ellis and Nowitzki as core players they can't sustain their defensive intensity. We saw that last night against Charlotte. They can be good for a few games, but asking them to be consistently good on defense is just not going to happen. Charlotte has scored more than 95 points twice in the last 17 games. Both times have come against the Mavs. If Dallas misses the playoffs it’s going to look back at all these losses to bad Eastern Conference teams and know exactly why they're at home.
MacMahon: The Mavs did a lot of things well during the streak, but all they really did was beat a bunch of teams that they should. The Grizzlies were the only foe of the five with a winning record, and they were missing point guard Mike Conley, who was a legitimate All-Star candidate. Other than that, the Mavs beat up on a bunch of bad teams. The other four opponents during the Mavs’ streak have a combined winning percentage of .351. They feasted during a stretch of schedule when they were supposed to get fat.
3. Has Samuel Dalembert earned trust with his recent performances?
Taylor: Call me when Dalembert has played well for a month or his alarm clock works for 30 straight days. We know Dalembert is one of the keys to the Mavs, which is scary because he's as inconsistent as a player can be. I have zero faith he can play consistently well. The Mavs simply need to take advantage of it on the nights he does play well. Every starter in the NBA is capable of having stretches of quality play. Consistency is what separates the average from good and good from great.
MacMahon: Well, he sure flunked the Al Jefferson test. Dalembert was a nonfactor while the Bobcats big man dominated the Mavs, putting up 30 points on 14-of-23 shooting. If the Mavs are being honest, they’d admit that their hope for Dalembert is that he shows up most of the time. It’s almost miraculous that he strung together four straight good performances.
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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.