In dire need of a pick-me-up on the defensive end of the court, the Dallas Mavericks proceeded to put the clamps on the Brooklyn Nets in the fourth quarter Thursday night and get out of American Airlines Center with a 123-111 triumph.
In the first game of the new year and the opener of a six-game home stand, the Mavs outscored the Nets, 30-18, in the fourth quarter and that was the difference in a game that was knotted at 93-all after three quarters.
The injury-riddled Mavs played without starters Kristaps Porzingis (right knee soreness) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (left hamstring strain). That forced coach Rick Carlisle to juggle many of his normal substitution patterns.
Meanwhile, the Mavs converted 12-of-21 baskets in the fourth quarter, while the Nets were just 7-of-21 during the last 12 minutes, including only 2-of-12 from 3-point territory.
“The game was the kind of game we expected — a lot of scoring, a lot of aggressive play,” Carlisle said. “It all came down to whether or not we could put together a quarter of solid defense.
“In the huddle before the fourth quarter, (assistant coach) Jamahl Mosley — who does our defense — said, ‘Hey guys, we need a 20-point (defensive) quarter.’ The guys dug down and responded with an 18-point quarter. That was the game right there.”
That sure was the way Luka Doncic saw it.
“‘We played way better defense in the fourth quarter, especially the rebounding totals,” said Doncic, who had a game-high 31 points to go with 13 rebounds and seven assists. “We had to get there and close out to everybody.”
From an offensive standpoint, Doncic was right in the middle of the winning rally. The second-year point guard poured in 15 of his points in the fourth quarter on 5-of-7 shooting, including 3-for-3 from beyond the 3-point arc.
From the 7:27 mark of the fourth quarter until he banged in a pair of free throws with 1:31 remaining amid chants of “MVP, MVP, MVP,” Doncic poured in 15 of the 20 points the Mavs scored during that stretch. That was all part of a 20-8 run that ran the score from 103-100 to 123-108.
“Obviously, Doncic was a big part of that,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “It’s hard when you don’t get stops.
“You’re taking (the ball) out of the net. Our defense overall, we could never find a way to stop them. We hung in there, but kind of ran out of gas there at the end.”
Seth Curry also had a major impact on this game as he finished with 25 points on 9-of-13 shots, including converting all five of his 3-point attempts. Curry was particularly effective in the third quarter when he tallied 15 of the 33 points the Mavs scored in that quarter.
“We were in a good rhythm,” Curry said. “We had a pretty good third and fourth quarter — got some good stops.
“Offensively we needed a little spark, so it was good to see some shots fall. It was a good win.”
Doncic only played five minutes and 13 seconds in the third quarter as injuries forced Carlisle to changed his substitution pattern the entire game.
“(Doncic) was playing too many long stretches of minutes and it’s been really compromising him late in games,” Carlisle said. “I talked to him about this yesterday.
“We had done this last year, where we’d rest him a couple times in each half. It’s challenging for him because he’s a rhythm player, but in the big picture we need him fresh to close, and tonight he was spectacular in the last four minutes of the game. He had bounce, his shot-making was there, his playmaking was there.”
And the juggling of Doncic’s minutes was very crucial, because he looked very fresh in the fourth quarter.
“I don’t know that it’ll be exactly like this every night,” Carlisle said. “But that, and 40 minutes two nights ago in Oklahoma City, that was on me. That was my mistake.
“You get in a situation like that where you get a late scratch (in Tuesday’s game against Oklahoma City) with a guy like KP, you can sort of subconsciously rationalize playing a guy a ton of minutes. But it affected him down the stretch in the Oklahoma game and we don’t want that to happen.”
The Nets (16-17) are kicking themselves for not taking advantage of the Mavs when Doncic went to the bench for some rest. Then again, even without Porzingis, Hardaway and Ryan Broekhoff (fractured left fibula), the Mavs showed exactly just how deep they really are as they got 62 points from their bench.
“Anytime a team’s best player’s out, you want to create separation,” said Spencer Dinwiddle, who led the Nets with 19 points. “Obviously, you got to try to continue to get stops.
“We also let Seth be a super impactful player in this game. That’s something that really kept them afloat.”
“We had a little trouble winning home games,” said Maxi Kleber, who scored a season-high 18 points. “We want to make sure we step into these games with the right attitude.
“We got to go out there and play physical, harder, especially from the start. We have to have the right attitude.”
The Mavs certainly exhibited the right attitude in the fourth quarter when the game was on the line.