DALLAS — Although it admittedly wasn’t pretty for the Dallas Mavericks during an 88-78 victory Sunday at Minnesota, the win did continue the team’s recent surge up the Western Conference standings.
Shooting just 38.6 percent from the field in the game, the Mavericks (39-38) charged back above .500 by winning their fourth game in a row. The Mavs also held the Timberwolves to just 40.8 percent shooting on the defensive end, ending the game with a 44-41 rebounding edge while converting Minnesota’s 18 turnovers into 20 points. And after seeing his team hold a fourth straight opponent under 90 points for the first time since doing so in six consecutive outings back in January of 2012, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle praised the effort of his players on the defensive side of the ball.
“We were having a rough night shooting the ball. And when you’re having a rough night shooting the ball, the only thing that’s going to hold you in NBA games is the ability to get stops,” Carlisle said after seeing his team lock in defensively. “We did a great job defensively, and everybody was involved. I thought that (Zaza) Pachulia played great defense, and Justin Anderson had a great defensive game. You know, Wes (Matthews) is always going to give you high-level defense, but I thought our team defense and our collective will carried us.”
The Mavericks certainly got off to a sluggish start defensively during Sunday’s showdown, allowing the Timberwolves to shoot 12 of 19 from the field while trailing 27-22 after the first quarter. The Dallas defense then began to stiffen in the second stanza, limiting the Timberwolves to just 4-of-19 shooting during the quarter and forcing five turnovers to take a 41-40 edge on the scoreboard entering the halftime intermission.
That formula remained in place during the second half as the Mavs continued to scramble on defense, finishing the game holding the Timberwolves to just 39.4 percent shooting in the final two quarters and converting Minnesota’s seven turnovers into 10 points during the game’s last 24 minutes. The Mavs will now try to carry that defensive success over to Wednesday’s pivotal matchup at home against the Southwest Division rival Houston Rockets in a game with heavy playoff implications.
“We didn’t have a great defensive start, I felt. You know, [the Timberwolves] had 20-something with a few minutes to go in the first quarter, so that wasn’t really the defensive start we wanted. But after that I thought we did pretty well, trying to keep them out of the lane,” 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki admitted after Sunday’s win.
He added: “We recovered well, but obviously we’ve got a lot bigger challenges coming up here. It’s a tough week, and we’ve got our hands full.”
The Mavericks have increased their defensive intensity since giving up a season-high points total in Sacramento on March 27 while falling to a 133-111 road loss. In the process, the Mavs haven’t tasted defeat since that disappointing display, using their defensive pressure to carry them to wins as the regular season draws to a close.
The Mavericks have given up an average of 86 points during the last four games, holding opponents to 42.2 percent shooting during that span. The Dallas defense is also forcing 17 turnovers an outing during the winning streak, relying on the takeaways to make up for just 41.7 percent shooting on the offensive end. And with a strong defensive presence carrying the Mavs during a critical stretch in the schedule, the team has admittedly used its last loss as a galvanizing experience.
“A lot of these games aren’t going to be pretty for us, but we try to play our way through it,” reserve guard Devin Harris explained. “Defensively, I think in the second half (on Sunday) we kind of locked into what they were doing. We did a great job of just contesting shots. And offensively, it wasn’t pretty in the first half, but shots began to fall in the second half.
“The season is full of highs and lows. And obviously, (the loss in Sacramento) was a low point for us with the guys that we have out. But with the guys that we do have, we’re playing hard and trying to live with the results. I think everybody just kind of looked in the mirror and looked at what they can do to help the team. Obviously, nobody had played well at that point. You know, we were just at a low point as a team. But I think we still had time to really turn things around, and we’re still in control of our destiny. I think guys are just focusing on defense, rebounding and playing hard, and we’ll see what happens.”
Note: The Mavericks will now return to their home floor on Wednesday, hosting the Houston Rockets. Houston leads season series 2-1. The game will tip off at 8:30 p.m. CT, airing nationally on ESPN and locally on Fox Sports Southwest and 103.3 FM ESPN. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting Mavs.com, or by calling (214) 747-MAVS.
Injury updates presented by Baylor Emergency Medical Centers:
Deron Williams (left groin and abdominal strain) — day-to-day
Chandler Parsons (right knee surgery) — out for the remainder of the season
Jeremy Evans (right shoulder surgery) — out for the remainder of the season