Playing the second half Wednesday night as if their playoff lives depended on it, the Dallas Mavericks put on one of the best defensive performances of the season in the final 24 minutes.
In holding Portland to a mere 38 second-half points, the Mavs opened a five-game homestand with a hard-fought 105-99 triumph over the Trail Blazers before a sellout crowd of 19,746 at American Airlines Center.
With the victory, coach Rick Carlisle became the fifth active NBA coach to win at least 500 games. The other four coaches on that illustrious list are Denver's George Karl (1,105), Minnesota's Rick Adelman (989), San Antonio's Gregg Popovich (885) and Boston's Doc Rivers (570).
After giving up 61 points in the first half, the Mavs rolled up their sleeves and were outstanding in the second half defensively.
Portland went 21 of 45 from the field, including 9 of 16 from 3-point territory in the first half. But in the second half, the Blazers were just 15 of 39 from the floor, including only 1 of 14 from three-point land.
"These games are hinging on a made or missed shot here or there," Carlisle said. "We were able to come up with some big rebounds. And we did a couple of other things defensively. But mostly it was just disposition and attitude."
A 22-footer by Vince Carter put the Mavs ahead 99-94 with 26.9 seconds remaining. Following a turnover by Wesley Matthews, Rodrigue Beaubois nailed a pair of free throws for a 101-94 Dallas lead with 19.5 seconds to go.
Carlisle credits the defensive pressure the Mavs put on rookie point guard Damian Lillard -- he scored only four of his 19 points in the second half -- with helping turn the game in the Mavs' favor.
"I thought DC [Darren Collison] and Roddy [Beaubois] both picked it up and made it harder on him," Carlisle said. "They play their starters a lot of minutes, so we wanted to keep the energy going, keep energy in the game, and fortunately they missed a few down the end."
It was that strong attitude which got the Mavs back into the game after the Blazers built a 43-31 lead with 9:17 left before halftime after a three-pointer by Lillard.
The Mavs kept digging and digging until they got within 61-57 of the Blazers at halftime. Most of that damage for Dallas was manufactured by O.J. Mayo, who tallied 20 of his game-high 28 points in the first half.
"I was just trying to be aggressive," said Mayo, who was 11 of 14 from the field. "Obviously this homestand is very important for us as we try to gain some ground in the standings before the All-Star break."
Meanwhile, as far as joining the 500-win club is concerned, Carlisle said assistant coach Jim O'Brien, who has 303 career wins, told him a wise old tale after the game.
"As Coach O'Brien said walking through the tunnel, it means I've been around a long time and I'm getting old," Carlisle said. "But it means I've had a lot of good players, so it's meaningful."
The Mavs shot 47.7 percent from the field, outrebounded Portland 46-42 and turned the ball over just eight times.
"I'm proud of the way the guys played," Carlisle said. "They had their way with us early and we had to fight back."
On Jan. 29, the Blazers edged the Mavs 106-104 on an 18-footer at the buzzer by LaMarcus Aldridge.
The next day the NBA issued a statement saying, in part, that Aldridge likely shouldn't have been in position to hit that game-winner because Mayo was whistled for charging into Ronnie Price with 1.5 seconds remaining in that game. But the NBA's statement said Price should have been charged for a block, and Mayo should have shot a pair of free throws.
Shawn Marion, who contributed 13 points and 10 rebounds Wednesday, said the Mavs were still a bit angry about that game.
"But not so much because we had so many games after that," Marion said. "We needed to win this first game at home."
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760