With their playoff lives hanging in the balance, the Dallas Mavericks showed some true grit Wednesday night when they outslugged the Houston Rockets 112-108 at American Airlines Center.
In a game that took on a very physical tone, the Mavericks finally fought back at the most opportune time and won a game against a quality team to remain within shouting distance of the playoff race.
The win helped the Mavs (27-33) atone for Sunday’s 136-103 loss to the Rockets in Houston. That lopsided loss was the motivation the Mavs needed to exact revenge and get within 4 1/2 games of the eighth-place Utah Jazz in the Western Conference standings.
O.J. Mayo filled up the stat sheet for the Mavs, finishing with 13 points, a career-high 12 assists, six rebounds and no turnovers.
“It’s his best game of the year — not even close,’’ coach Rick Carlisle said. “He played great defensively, his awareness was tremendous, and offensively he made the right play virtually every time.’’
Mayo, who scored seven consecutive Mavs points after the Rockets had inched within 100-99, said he was just trying to get his teammates involved in the game.
“It pretty much just came in the flow of the game,’’ Mayo said of his assists. “I just wanted to make the simple play every time down the court.’’
Mayo said the Mavs were thoroughly motivated by what transpired in Housotn on Sunday.
“We were supposed to have the next day off, but instead we came in and worked out tailends off,’’ Mayo said. “After what happened in Houston, it was embarrassing as a man, as a player and as a Dallas Maverick.
“We really wanted to come in here and show our fans that we are a much better squad. It was a great game and a lot of fun.’’
The fun didn’t stop with Mayo’s penchant for distributing assists, as the Mavs dispensed a season-high 35 assists, got 22 points from Dirk Nowitzki, and shot 54.2 percent from the field. But this was no easy pickings for the Mavs.
Point guard Darren Collison, who was replaced in the lineup by Mike James — he got his first start of the season — nearly made a terrible mistake during crunch time.
After receiving an inbound pass near midcourt with 6.4 seconds left, Collison’s weight nearly took him into the backcourt for a violation. But Patrick Beverley inexplicably got too close to Collison and nudged him into the backcourt for a foul, with the Mavs ahead 110-108.
Calm and collected, Collison proceeded to nail the two free throws that sealed the game and got the Mavs out of town on a four-game road trip, which starts Friday in Detroit, on a good note.
“I’m glad we pulled it out,’’ said Shawn Marion, who had 22 points and held James Harden to 5-of-17 shooting. “We knew we had to close it at the end.
“We knew it was going to be an up and down game. But we were able to do what we do and that’s win.’’
A free throw by Marion put the Mavs ahead 110-108 with 49.9 seconds left. Later, Harden drove the lane, was swarmed by Marion, missed a shot, and the Rockets were awarded the ball after it went out of bounds with 6.4 seconds to go.
But after a review, the officials awarded the ball to the Mavs. Then came Collison’s two free throws that sent Mavs fans home happy.
“We played better and we had a stronger posture tonight, and we were determined,’’ Carlisle said. “They made runs and we knew they were going to make runs.
“We weathered everything tonight, and it’s a sign of some character.’’