The full Wesley Matthews experience was on display Wednesday night in his first visit to American Airlines Center since the Mavericks traded him last month.
He got a warm reception when he was announced with the Indiana Pacers’ starting lineup, then locked down defensively on the first few possessions of the game, forcing two turnovers by Luka Doncic. He hit a mess of 3-pointers before he was done, too.
Most notably, in the second quarter, he tapped his heart to the fans as the Mavericks played a video tribute on the big screen. The video showed Matthews contributing in the community as well as on the court. For 3 1/2 seasons, he was a fixture in the Mavericks’ starting lineup.
“It felt good, it really did,” Matthews said of the outpouring of emotions. “I’m surprised not by the reception, but I was in Portland for five years and never got (a video tribute). It was great and I appreciate it.”
Matthews wasn’t taking a shot at the Blazers. He still has very fond memories of his time in Portland. But it was clear that his first visit back to AAC was special for Matthews.
He finished with 20 points, including 4-of-10 3-point shooting. Not that any of that mattered to Matthews. The Blazers lost the game 110-101 and that’s the only bottom line he’s interested in.
But he did have a memorable battle with Doncic, who got the better of Matthews on this night with the victory – along with 26 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, along with seven turnovers, several forced by Matthews.
“They made shots, I’ve been in their locker room, I know they’re a good home team,” Matthews said.
As for his battle with Doncic, he said he already knew what kind of player the Mavericks’ rookie was. It wasn’t going to change Matthews’ aggressiveness.
“We’re going to fight,” he said. “I play mad. I play angry and that’s how I got here. That is probably how I continue to stay here.”
The bottom line is that Matthews doesn’t change. He continues to play with Indiana the same way he played when he was with the Mavericks. He and Doncic had some words, some trash talking, some friendly razzing.
It’s all part of the game.
“Anything involving Wes is going to be a stimulating situation,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “And that’s one of the reasons we loved him. Those two guys are both great competitors and they also like to have fun in the heat of great competition. It wasn’t surprising to see some exchanges. But in the end, they both wanted to win.”