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Game 36: Mavs at Pacers

INDIANAPOLIS — Hoping to build on Tuesday’s 98-94 victory at home against Toronto, the Dallas Mavericks ventured back out on the road 24 hours later and tried to keep trending in the right direction.

Concluding a back-to-back Wednesday night and beginning a three-game road trip, the Mavericks tried to build on Tuesday’s performance away from home. The Mavs also attempted to take down another Eastern Conference powerhouse, looking to get the better of the Indiana Pacers without leading scorer Victor Oladipo (sore right knee) in the lineup. And after staging a 14-4 run to end the game, the Mavericks (11-25) scratched and clawed their way to a hard-fought 98-94 victory.

“It was big. You know, they obviously missed Oladipo a lot down the stretch, but hey, we’ve lost plenty of games lately to teams without some of their players,” 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki said after the win. “You know, we’ve had players out all season, so it is what it is. I’m glad we battled for each other and got some stops.”

Trying to get off to a fast start without the Pacers’ No. 1 offensive option on the floor, the Mavericks would instead find themselves in an early 8-2 hole. The Mavs then looked to their ageless superstar, settling down after back-to-back scores from Nowitzki. Still, after a jumper from Pacers big man Myles Turner put the home team up 14-9, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle was forced to call for timeout with 6:50 left in the opening period.

Leading scorer Harrison Barnes then began to go to work at the offensive end of the floor, attempting to will his team in front. The Pacers (19-16) countered with the duo of Turner and combo guard Lance Stephenson. And after trailing by nine in the quarter, the Mavericks looked up to a 29-22 deficit entering the second stanza.

“We stuck with it,” Carlisle said. “You know, they’re a great offensive team, and they were making shots early in the game. We just felt like if we picked up our intensity a little bit, we could contest a little better and make it tough on them.”

Staging a rally behind the play of their reserves, the Mavericks charged to within three after veteran Devin Harris found second-year standout Yogi Ferrell in transition. The Mavs crept to within one a short time later following Nowitzki’s feed to a cutting Dwight Powell for a two-handed slam, forcing an Indiana timeout after Dallas cut the deficit to 29-28 with 10:10 left in the first half.

An alley-oop connection between Harris and Powell followed as the Mavericks remained within an arm’s reach. Nowitzki then tied the game briefly at 34-all after a driving score of his own, leading to backup point guard J.J. Barea’s lob pass for rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. to keep the Mavs even on the scoreboard. Smith also contributed from the outside with a timely three after the Pacers opened up a five-point lead. But after three-pointers from Harris and swingman Wesley Matthews briefly put the Mavericks on top at 51-50, the Pacers surged back ahead to take a 54-53 edge into the halftime break.

Led by 21 combined points from the duo of Powell and Matthews on 8-of-12 total shooting, the Mavericks trailed by one while being outshot through two quarters, 57.9 percent to 53.7 percent. The Pacers also held a 19-13 rebounding advantage, overcoming their eight turnovers in the half.

“I thought in the first half we weren’t great defensively. They got in the lane too many times and were shooting the ball really, really well. We made some adjustments at halftime, we went under on some of their pick-and-rolls and really kept their guards more out of the lane. … In the second half, we made an adjustment, and that helped us,” Nowitzki foreshadowed.

Starting the second-half scoring with Nowitzki’s three from the top of the key, the Mavericks quickly assumed the lead early in the third quarter. Barnes also upped his aggression in the period, moving into double figures on the offensive end of the floor. And after Nowitzki found fellow German Maxi Kleber in the corner for a three-point bomb, the Mavs held a 62-58 edge with 6:54 left in the third.

However, the Pacers again had an answer as former Mav Darren Collison took over the Indiana scoring attack to put the home team back ahead. Turner also slid back into the scoring in the midst of a 10-2 Indy run to put the Pacers up 68-64. A three-pointer from Turner followed as the Pacers opened up a five-point lead at 71-66. But after the Pacers went up by seven, Harris’ driving score and Ferrell’s trey from the corner brought the Mavericks back within two. The Mavs limped into the fourth from there, trailing 74-71.

Putting the ball in the hands of versatile forward Domantas Sabonis early in the final quarter, the Pacers threatened to pull away before Harris’ driving three-point play brought the Mavs to within four. Harris then answered a three by Pacers forward Bojan Bogdanovic, keeping the Mavericks within striking distance. And after Nowitzki kept his team in the game with a barrage of jumpers later in the quarter, the Mavericks trailed 88-84 with 5:23 left to play.

Ferrell then answered Stephenson’s score with a jumper of his own, aided by a foul away from the ball and Powell’s free throw to bring the Mavs within three. Smith’s cat-quick score made the deficit just one a short time later. Barnes’ pull-up jumper put the Mavericks on top from there, leading to Ferrell’s three from the corner to cap a 10-0 Dallas run while putting the visiting team up 94-90. Not to be outdone, Bogdanovic brought the Pacers within two the next time down the floor. Stephenson’s driving score with 53 seconds left tied the game at 94-all as the teams continued to exchange haymakers. Barnes split a pair of free throws with 37.7 seconds remaining to put the Mavs back up one. Smith then stepped up to the occasion after Matthews’ timely steal, going in for a layup to put the Mavericks up three with 25.2 seconds left on the game clock. The Dallas defense again stepped up while forcing a miss from three-point range by Collison. And after Ferrell’s 1-of-2 trip to the foul line with 3.5 seconds remaining, the Mavericks secured the win in the final moments.

Scoring 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting, Nowitzki led the Mavericks while grabbing seven rebounds. Barnes and Ferrell added 13 points apiece, and Matthews pitched in 12 points in the first unit. Meanwhile, Powell scored 12 points in a reserve role, and Harris finished with 10 points off the bench.

Turner, Collison and Stephenson all scored 16 points apiece to lead six Pacers in double figures. However, the Mavericks outshot the Pacers for the game, 51.3 percent to 48.1 percent. The Mavs also overcame a 39-35 rebounding disadvantage, converting the Pacers’ 16 turnovers into 18 points to overshadow their own 10 giveaways.

“We just fought with fire and continued to play hard,” Matthews proclaimed. “We continued to believe that we had this game, even though we let them kind of get a juice and a mojo going. This is a good team. They shoot it well, and they’ve got a lot of guys that can score. But we stuck to our guns, kept playing hard, kept lifting each other up, and we got a win.”

“We were able to build off what we did last night in Dallas, and hopefully we carry that momentum over to New Orleans,” Barnes said while turning the page on the win.

Note: The Mavericks will now head New Orleans and continue their road trip Friday night against the Pelicans. New Orleans leads the season series 1-0 after a 99-94 win in Dallas on Nov. 3. The game will tip off at 7 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest and 103.3 FM ESPN. The game will also air in Spanish on KFLC AM 1270.

The Mavs return to their home floor next Wednesday night at American Airlines Center against the defending champion Golden State Warriors. Golden State leads the season series 2-0. The game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest and 103.3 FM ESPN. The game will also air in Spanish on KFLC AM 1270. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting Mavs.com, or by calling (214) 747-MAVS.

Injury updates:

Dorian Finney-Smith (left knee quadriceps tendinitis) — out
Seth Curry (stress reaction, left tibia) — out
Josh McRoberts (lower extremity injury) — out
Nerlens Noel (left thumb surgery) — out