Looking to bounce back from Monday night’s 100-95 defeat in Houston, the Mavericks returned to their hometown hardwood Wednesday while hoping to send a message to the Atlanta Hawks prior to facing off again when the regular season tips off next week. Meanwhile, the American Airlines Center crowd got its initial look at the first unit of point guard Jose Calderon, 2-guard Monta Ellis, small forward Shawn Marion, 11-time All-Star power forward Dirk Nowitzki and center Samuel Dalembert.
The new-look Mavericks (4-3) then proceeded to give their hometown fans a 98-88 victory to feast on after facing an Atlanta team that was playing without several of its top contributors.
“I think we were a little stagnant and a little slow-footed at times, but when we got it going it was some good things out there that I saw,” Marion said after the win. “I think we’ve just got to stay with it. It ain’t going to happen over night. It lost its luster a little bit when we found out a lot of guys weren’t playing tonight. That kind of took the life out of the game a little bit, but at the same time we were able to prevail and get the W. We’ve got one more preseason game and then it’s over with.”
“I mean, they had half of their team out tonight and most of their better players. And the thing that was concerning is early they carried the action,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle added. “I mean, they were playing better than we were. We adjusted when we got on our heels, but the goal has got to be to come out better, be more aggressive and be the ones carrying the action. Going forward, we responded, but we’ve got to get off to better starts in both halves.”
With the first unit intact, the Mavs sprinted to a 6-0 advantage out of the gate. However, the Hawks (1-6) would quickly respond with a 10-2 run to take the lead. The visitors then eventually slid into the second stanza with a 24-19 edge.
“We’ve got to get better. I think the energy wasn’t really there in the first quarter. We got down a little bit and their boys played hard,” Nowitzki confessed. “They made some shots and it felt like we were a step slow there at the beginning of the game. We adjusted a little bit, took a little lead into the half, but we’ve got some stuff to work on defensively.”
Behind Calderon and Nowitzki, the Mavs tried to make a dent in their deficit during the early minutes of the second quarter. Their teammates would follow suit as the Mavs took a 32-31 edge on Marion’s floater while forcing an Atlanta timeout with 7:06 left in the half. The four-time All-Star and versatile forward then handed the scoring duties back over to Nowitzki as the Mavs took a 47-43 lead at the midway mark.
With Calderon, Marion and Nowitzki combining for 30 points on 13-of-23 shooting, the Mavs’ 48.8 percent shooting bettered the Hawks’ 42.5 percent at the half. Dallas also held a 24-12 edge in points in the paint and 23-21 rebounding advantage.
Behind the one-man attack of rookie Dennis Schroder, the Hawks quickly rallied to take a 54-53 lead while forcing a timeout by Carlisle with 7:46 left in the third. Mavs sixth man Vince Carter and rookie backup point guard Gal Mekel quickly intervened, however, staging a furious rally of their own to put the Mavs ahead 76-69 entering the fourth.
Pushing ahead by double digits as Mekel found fellow newcomer DeJuan Blair inside the lane for the slam, the Mavs’ reserves began to create some separation on the scoreboard in the fourth. But the Hawks would refuse to go away, forcing Carlisle to go back to his starters as Atlanta stayed within striking distance.
The Atlanta momentum would be short-lived, though, as Ellis settled his team down. Second-year standout Jae Crowder’s streaking score then made it an 89-77 Dallas advantage with 7:29 still on the clock. A jumper by Nowitzki then made it a 91-84 game before Carlisle pulled his starters inside the final 3:00 of play.
Crowder’s 3-pointer with 1:56 remaining to make it a 96-85 score then put the final exclamation point on the win.
Playing just over 29 minutes, Nowitzki led the Mavs to the victory with 17 points on 7-of-17 shooting. Ellis added 15 points and dished out five assists, while Marion and Carter both pitched in 12 points apiece. Calderon and Crowder made it six Mavs in double figures with 10 points each.
“That’s what we need to do. We need to share the ball as much as possible,” Ellis said after the Mavs dished out 26 assists as a team. “We’ve got so many guys on this team that can score, I think that’s going to be our weapon. Continue to make extra passes and continue to knock shots down, and I think it’s going to open up a lot of things for us.”
Despite committing seven turnovers, Schroder led the Hawks with 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting. Meanwhile, Dallas ended the game with a 44-32 advantage in points in the paint and 19 points off the Hawks’ 20 turnovers, surrendering 14 giveaways themselves for 11 Atlanta points. The Mavs’ 47.7 percent shooting as team also outdid the Hawks’ 43.8 percent while overcoming a 42-40 rebounding deficit.
“I don’t look that much at shooting percentages. We look at the kind of shots we’re getting, and that’s how we gauge where we are as far as if we’re playing well,” Carlisle concluded. “You can play well and not make shots. When that happens a lot of it falls back on your defense, and if you can get shots when you’re not shooting it good then you’ve still got a chance to win the game. You know, the shot making comes and goes in this league, but the defense has got to be consistent.”
Note: The Mavericks return to American Airlines Center when they conclude the preseason Friday night against the Indiana Pacers. The game will air locally on TXA 21 at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS (6287) or by visiting Mavs.com.