DALLAS — With the games running out fast, the Dallas Mavericks had to make a move in the right direction to improve their playoff chances.
That move came Wednesday when the Mavs wore down the tired-legged Memphis Grizzlies, 95-85, at American Airlines Center.
“Yeah, it was a good bounce back for us,” said Jason Terry, who poured in 15 points. “Obviously we’re fighting with all these teams for playoff positioning and this was a crucial game for us, as are all of them.
“It was a good win tonight, but our focus now shifts to Portland.”
The victory put the Mavs (31-24) in a virtual tie with the Grizzlies (30-23) for fifth place in the Western Conference standings with 11 games remaining. Memphis has a winning percentage of .566, while Dallas is at .564.
The game turned early in the fourth quarter when the Mavs used a 21-4 run to turn a 73-68 deficit into an 89-77 lead with 3:01 left. Shawn Marion was the sparkplug during that decisive run as he tallied 10 of his 16 points.
The effort helped the Mavs put Monday’s ugly 94-75 home loss to the Los Angeles Clippers in their rearview mirror.
“We didn’t play a good game on Monday, but today was a new day,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “We needed to come out stronger, come out and play better.
“I thought our discipline and patience was good.”
It had to be. Especially after the Grizzlies built a 46-36 lead late in the second quarter.
“You get down 10 early and the way it went Monday, it would have been easy to just let it go off a cliff, but we didn’t do that,” Carlisle said. “We just stayed in there.
“The run at the end of the half was important. Then the first possession of the second half, the ball touched five different guys. We hit a three and that was big for us and gave us momentum in the second half.”
Dirk Nowitzki had five points and Delonte West added four in an 11-3 run the Mavs pieced together just before halftime. Then, when the Grizzlies tried to shake loose of the Mavs in the fourth quarter after building a five-point cushion, Marion kept hustling and kept the Mavs in the game.
“Our motto is don’t even worry about it,” Terry said. “So if something goes wrong out there on the floor, or somebody is out of the lineup, we just tell ourselves or tell our teammates don’t even worry about it and just keep playing.
“And I think that’s what has been keeping us in these games and keeping us positive. Monday night was a bad performance, but we just put it away and did not even worry about it.”
In addition to bagging the victory over a Grizzlies team that was playing its seventh game in nine days, and its third in three days, the Mavs finally were able to beat someone on the boards. After getting hammered on the boards for the past two weeks, the Mavs won the rebounding battle, 45-40, with five players coming up with at least five rebounds.
“The attention to detail was much better on the boards,” Carlisle said. “It was a collective effort. Everyone chipped in.
“That’s the kind of team we are. We don’t have one guy that’s going to go and get 15 rebounds a night. It’s just not how we’re set up.”
Nowitzki led the Mavs with a game-high 23 points and 10 boards, West scored 14, and Ian Mahinmi came off the bench to collect 10 rebounds as the Mavs stopped a three-game losing streak to the Grizzlies.
For the second straight game, the Mavs played without 39-year old Jason Kidd, who is out with a strained right groin. But West filled in admirably as he had only one turnover in 26 minutes.
Lamar Odom also returned after missing Monday’s game with a stomach illness. Odom contributed five points and five rebounds in 19 minutes, but drew jeers when he missed the entire rim during one free throw attempt in the third quarter.
“We’re still trying to get guys comfortable in their roles,” said Terry, who had five points and three assists in the fourth period. “Obviously, Delonte West has missed a lot of time. We’re trying to implement him back into the system and get him in sync and get everyone on the same page.
That’s one reason why we’re having so many inconsistencies.”
The win over the Grizzlies was critical if the Mavs have any hopes of catching the Clippers (32-22) for fourth place and the all-important homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
“You can win two or lose two either way and that can make a big difference where you’re going to be in the playoffs, or not in the playoffs at all,” Terry said. “Knowing that and knowing we’re a championship caliber team, we just have to continue to grind it out and don’t even worry about it.”
The Grizzlies got 17 points from O.J. Mayo, 11 from Mike Conley Jr. and 10 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and four steals from Marc Gasol.
But they had nothing left in the tank when they needed to play a play in the critical stages of the fourth quarter.
“I think we ran out of gas,” Conley said. “I think we gave our best effort, for the most part.
“In the fourth quarter we couldn’t score, shots weren’t falling, and they got too many easy looks in transition. They got out and got some turnovers and they were able to capitalize off of those for some easy buckets.”
The Mavs shot 50 percent from the field and outscored Memphis in the paint, 44-36. Now, the Mavs will end this three-game homestand Friday against Portland before hitting the road to play at Memphis on Saturday.
“Throughout this rigorous schedule our guys are going to be in and out of the lineup,” Terry said. “But once we get a consistent set rotation I think we’re going to be OK.
“I think once we get to the playoffs everyone should be healthy by then, and go forward and make another championship run.”
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760