Just when Monday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves got a little tense, guard Josh Richardson came up big for the Dallas Mavericks and helped them get out of a tight jam.
After the Timberwolves whittled a 25-point deficit down to just three, Richardson buried a short jumper to put the Mavs ahead, 125-120, with 27.5 seconds remaining. Then he grabbed a defensive rebound and popped in a pair of free throws to pad the Mavs’ lead to 127-120 with 15.4 seconds left.
It was the kind of clutch performance the Mavs needed as they held off the Timberwolves en route to capturing a 127-122 victory before 1,500 frontline healthcare workers at American Airlines Center.
“Richardson made a couple of big plays down the stretch,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “One was a rebound that led to a foul, and then the jumper in the lane took it from a one to a two-possession game, and then the free throws were big. Right now we’ve got to do whatever we can to win games.”
Richardson finished the night with 18 points, five rebounds and a game- and season-high eight assists. He also was 6-of-10 from the field in 36 minutes.
“It was great,” forward Tim Hardaway Jr. said of Richardson. “You expect that from Josh all day, every day, every game.
“But it shouldn’t have even gotten to that point. When you have a lead like that it’s very, very important to do a great job of sustaining it.”
Shooting percentages will rise: The Mavs entered Monday’s game against Minnesota shooting just 45.6 percent from the field and last in the NBA in 3-point shooting at 33.8 percent. But things appear to be trending upward.
“We’re a better shooting team than what our number has been in recent games, for a lot of different reasons,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “We just got to keep our head down, keep working at the process of playing our game to the best of our abilities both defensively and offensively, and stepping into good quality 3-point shots with aggression and decisiveness. That’s the big key.
“You don’t know how it’s going to go on a game-to-game basis with shot-making. That’s why having a consistent defense is so important, and we’re continuing to work hard on that, and that’s kind of where we are.”
Against the Timberwolves, the Mavs were 45-of-87 from the floor for 51.7 percent, and 12-of-34 from downtown for 35.3 percent.
Winning it all remains the goal: While the Mavericks may not be talking about winning a championship on a daily basis, that’s still the goal.
“The focus is on the process, and that’s day-to-day, continuing to work, continuing to work on our system, work on our defense, work offensively on spacing and movement and creating great shots and all those kinds of things,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “We are a process-oriented organization and the goal is always to win a championship, but you don’t walk in every day talking about winning a championship. You talk about championship habits and those kinds of things.
“Those are the kinds of things that we focus on, but it’s all process related. We’re getting back healthy finally, which is good. But none of these games are easy and none of them are going to be easy and we’ve got to love that challenge.”
Black History Month moment: In the spirit of the Super Bowl, coach Rick Carlisle opened his Black History Month moment during his pregame press conference on Monday to discuss an historic moment by quarterback Doug Williams.
Carlisle said: “On Jan. 31, 1988, in San Diego, Doug Williams of the Washington Redskins – now known as the Washington Football Team — became the first African American quarterback to play in a Super Bowl. He had four touchdown passes, 340 yards passing and a 127.9 quarterback rating that day in a 42-10 victory, which was an upset victory over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXII.
“Pretty memorable performance. I remember watching that one live.”
Briefly: The nation will get to see a lot of the Mavs (11-14) for almost the next three weeks. Of the Mavs’ next nine games, seven of them will be shown on national TV. The Mavs will play on ESPN on Wednesday against Atlanta, Friday against New Orleans, Sunday against Portland and Feb. 19 against Houston. They also will play on TNT on Feb. 23 against Boston and Feb. 25 against Philadelphia, and on ABC on Feb. 27 against Brooklyn. The only two Mavs’ games during that stretch that aren’t televised nationally are home games on Feb. 17 against Detroit and Feb. 22 against Memphis. . .Coach Rick Carlisle said Kristaps Porzingis was the Defensive Player of the Game – and winner of the championship belt – by virtue of the six blocks he totaled against the Timberwolves. By the way, Carlisle also said Josh Richardson won the team’s Defensive Player of the Game accolades for his efforts during last Wednesday’s victory in Atlanta. And Tim Hardaway Jr. won it for his performance during this past Saturday’s 134-132 win over the Golden State Warriors. On Hardaway, Carlisle said: “He really cemented it by a huge loose ball play and a charge that he took in the fourth quarter.”. .With their 71-51 halftime lead over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday, the Mavs have now scored at least 70 points in the first half in three consecutive games for the first time in franchise history. Last Thursday the Mavs led the Golden State Warriors, 76-74, at the half, and this past Saturday they led the Warriors, 72-64, at the half. . .Forward James Johnson was listed as questionable for Monday’s game and ultimately did not play. Johnson has been dealing with soreness in his left knee. “I think he’s doing OK,” Carlisle said. “You know these freak things happen once in a while. You’re out there warming up and maybe you move a funny way or something and you start feeling something. It came out of the blue and it sounds like it’s dissipating pretty well.”