Yesterday’s game was one of big runs, big momentum swings, and big drama. The entire second half seemed more physical and intense than any other game all season.
That goes extra for the closing minutes of the game, when small plays became massive ones in the final outcome of the game. In a contest as close as that one, every single bounce of the ball can have an impact on the final score, and that was certainly the case as Dallas beat Memphis 103-95 in what was likely the team’s best win of the season. Here are five plays that changed the game for the Mavs.
1. Dirk Nowitzki Four-Point Play
With 8:55 left in the third quarter, Dirk Nowitzki drained a three-pointer with the foul to put the Mavs up seven after the free throw. The Grizzlies quickly shrank a seven-point halftime deficit to just one point before Nowitzki sank a two-point jump shot to put Dallas up 58-55. After a stop, Tyson Chandler grabbed an offensive rebound off a Chandler Parsons miss and eventually the ball found Dirk, who gave the Mavs the breathing room they desperately need at that juncture in the game.
2. Rajon Rondo Steals the Ball
Not long after Dirk’s four-point play, the Big German missed a jump shot. Gasol initially came down with the defensive rebound, but Rajon Rondo snuck behind him, slapped the ball out of his hands, then saved it off the Memphis center (with authority, I might add) to give the Mavs an extra possession. Nowitzki would hit a three on the ensuing possession to put Dallas up six, 67-61.
3. Rajon Rondo Finds Monta Ellis for a Layup
Rondo might only have grabbed three boards yesterday, but perhaps none was bigger in the game than the one he secured with 7:11 left in regulation. After snagging the loose ball, he waited patiently until Monta Ellis cut to the rim. Rondo found him, Ellis converted, and the Mavs went up three, 87-84. Dallas had just been ahead 84-79, but a quick 5-0 Grizzlies run tied the game. The possession leading up to Rondo’s board was a wild one, as Dallas missed two three-pointers and nearly turned the ball over a handful of times. The Mavericks had the ball for 30 seconds before Monta’s layup finally went in.
4. Tyson Chandler Stands Tall
With 2:42 left in the game and the Mavericks clinging on to a 93-91 lead, Gasol attacked the rim for a layup only to be halted by Chandler’s perfect vertical defense. The Mavs big man would also secure the rebound and, at the other end, Rondo would sink a jumper to put Dallas up four points with under 2:30 to play. Gasol had been effective all night long, but so had Chandler. The Dallas center proved his toughness yesterday, wrestling not only with Gasol, but also Zach Randolph for the entirety of the game.
5. Dirk Nowitzki Rolls to the Rim
With Dallas up four, 97-93, and looking to close out the game, the Mavs went to their go-to offense: a Dirk ball-screen for Ellis. This time, however, Nowitzki wouldn’t pop. Instead, he slipped the screen and rolled to the rim, a unicorn of a play. Dirk never rolls to the basket, but that’s exactly what he did and it worked out perfectly. He’d hit the layup after fumbling the ball on the way up to put Dallas ahead 99-93 with 1:20 left. Memphis would never reduce the lead to less than four the rest of the way. Nowitzki scored the Mavs’ final eight points of the game in one of his best clutch performances in recent memory.