To paraphrase coach Rick Carlisle after the Mavericks’ 109-91 victory over Philadelphia Saturday night, you never know when or where a fuse will be lit as a team tries to fight its way out of a funk.
Against the 76ers, it came from one of Carlisle’s assistant coaches.
The Mavericks have been trying to stay afloat on their six-game home stand that did not go nearly as well as they’d hoped. They were 2-3 after losing two in a row before Saturday’s game.
They needed something. And assistant coach Mike Weinar, one of the few aides who has been with Carlisle since he took the Mavericks’ job in 2008, supplied the words of wisdom that got the team going against the Sixers.
The Mavericks had played a lifeless first half. Then, they came out like gangbusters in the third quarter, turned a nine-point halftime deficit into a 10-point lead and stepped on the gas in the fourth quarter to blow out the Sixers.
In short, the Mavericks flexed their backbone at a time when they really needed to.
“Bad first half, great second half,” Carlisle said. “At halftime, we were flat and one of my assistant coaches who doesn’t speak up very often, actually, had some fiery inspiration words for the team. Mike Weinar felt strongly about a couple things in this game, and I really think those couple sentences, the way he said it, really kind of got our guys into it. The third quarter was spectacular.”
Carlisle and Luka Doncic both said it was defensive oriented. And while nobody went into details, it’s a fair bet that Weinar’s comments had something to do with the 11 offensive rebounds, 10 second-chance points and 34 points in the paint Philadelphia had in gouging out a 50-41 lead at halftime.
“It was a great message,” Doncic said. “(The details), that stays on the team. But it was a great message. Before he started, he said: I don’t talk much at halftime.”
Carlisle did say Weinar’s comments were the kind of thing that can have a major impact on a team at a critical time of the year.
“And, you know, this is the dog days right now,” he said. “This is getting to mid-January. People are smelling the All-Star break. This is a time you’re never sure where a spark is going to come from. A lot of times, it’ll be one of your players doing something to get guys into it. But this is something we needed, and it really got us going.”
It finished up their six-game home stand – longest of the season – with a 3-3 record. It’s not what the Mavericks hoped for when they started this staycation after New Year’s Day.
But it could have been worse, too. And the way they responded after a subpar first half against the Sixers – which followed a lopsided loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night – provided hope going into a stretch where they play nine of their next 14 games on the road.
The Mavericks outscored Philadelphia 68-41 in the second half. And they got huge lifts from several players, most notably Dwight Powell, who had 19 points and 12 rebounds.
Boban Marjanovic came off the bench and played only 10 minutes, but supplied 12 points, including a 3-pointer that drew huge cheers from the crowd and Doncic, who had taken a seat on the bench for the final moments of the game.
Oh, and Doncic wasn’t bad, either, racking up 19 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds. Maxi Kleber (10 points, eight rebounds, three blocks) also contributed mightily, particularly on defense against the Sixers’ Ben Simmons, who had 11 first-half points but was shut out after halftime.
“It’s a great way to end the home stand,” Carlisle said. “We would have loved to win another game or two, for sure. But we are where we are and we’ll enjoy the day off, practice Monday and get the hell out of here.”
The Mavericks have back-to-back games at Golden State and Sacramento on Tuesday and Wednesday.
That’s another reason why they needed a spark.
“We played like a team,” said Doncic. “It wasn’t just me. Every player stepping on the court (contributed). We had some tough losses, but we did a good job of moving to the next one.
“We needed it badly. We showed we can play – they’re one of the top teams in the East. We showed we can play against anybody. We just have to do it constantly.”