For the most part Friday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Dallas Mavericks appeared as though they were still hung over from a grueling eight-day, four-game road trip that ended with Thursday’s emotional loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
The hapless Cavs were pushing the weary Mavs around the majority of the night until the home team finally showed some moxie while fighting their way to a 96-86 triumph before a sellout crowd of 20,482 at American Airlines Center.
Sparks off the bench from Rodrigue Beaubois, Brandan Wright and Darren Collison helped the Mavs avoid a major upset and increase their record to 31-34. Meanwhile, coach Rick Carlisle explained why his team lacked so much luster for over half the game.
“It’s a big energy game and because of us playing Thursday night and having a difficult loss and those kinds of things, we struggled early and we struggled partly because we couldn’t hit a bull with a bass fiddle on offense,” Carlisle said. “And defensively they were getting momentum into their offense and they were scoring.
“Nights like tonight you’ve got to keep fishing until you try to find something that works and is effective.”
That’s precisely what the Mavs did.
Carlisle went to a smaller and quicker lineup, and players such as Beaubois, Wright and Collison left defenders in the dust.
Beaubois finished with 18 points — one shy of his season high — five assists and three rebounds. Wright had 13 points and five rebounds, and Collison added 13 points and five assists.
Also, Dirk Nowitzki had 13 points and 11 rebounds, O.J. Mayo collected 10 points, and rookie Jae Crowder added a career-high 14 rebounds.
“I thought it was Roddy’s best game of the year by far, and certainly the most timely,” Carlisle said. “Defensively he was real strong, he rebounded, he made plays, he hit shots, he hit timely shots, and he moved the ball. It couldn’t have come at a better time.”
A drop-off pass from Beaubois to Wright, followed by a 3-point basket from the fourth-year guard padded the Mavs’ lead to 80-72 early in the fourth quarter.
Collison then split the lane for a basket, Wright skied over Tyler Zeller for an offensive rebound and a put-back dunk, Nowitzki scored, and Beaubois used a pick by Nowitzki to negotiate his way to the rim for a dunk and an 88-78 Dallas lead with 2:28 left.
“When coach put me in the game I just tried to be aggressive and step forward at that moment,” said Beaubois, who was 6-of-10 from the field, including 3-of-5 from 3-point range. “Well, I’ve been up and down this season, so I just need to keep working.”
With so much at stake, the Mavs knew there was no way they couldn’t afford to lose to one of the NBA bottom feeders.
“A night like tonight, everybody was into it because we knew we needed to win this game,” Beaubois said. “So everybody was hungry to win and I think that’s why we won the game.”
The Mavs’ bench is another reason why Carlisle’s crew won for the fifth time in their past six games. Dallas’ reserves outscored the Cavs bench 60-19.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game, especially coming off a back-to-back,” Collison said. “We felt like we gave all our effort in the last month and this one was more of a mental game.
“We made a few mistakes early on, but the most important thing is that we got the win.”