DALLAS – Wesley Matthews continued his torrid shooting streak Monday night.
Matthews poured in 25 points to lead the Dallas Mavericks to a convincing 112-92 triumph over the Denver Nuggets before a sellout crowd of 19,425 at American Airlines Center. It was the third win in their last six games for the Mavs, who improved to 6-18.
Monday’s win came thanks to contributions from many players. At the forefront, though, was Matthews, who has scored at least 25 points for the fifth time in the last eight games.
Against Denver, Matthews was 10-of-14 from the field, including 5-of-7 from beyond the 3-point arc.
"Well, my teammates are finding me and I’m getting good looks,’’ Matthews said of the offensive rhythm he has established. "I put a lot of emphasis this year on working hard on my shot after practice.
"I’m a product of energy, and when we are playing the right way and we are locked in I feel like I can knock down shots.’’
With Dirk Nowitzki sidelined for all but five games this season, coach Rick Carlisle described Matthews as the Mavs’ leader inside and outside of the locker room.
"If you look at the number in the last 10 games, it’s pretty clear that he is,’’ Carlisle said, referring to Matthews’ recent hot scoring spree. "He’s our energetic, soul guy,
"He’s doing a lot of things right now for us.’’
Matthews scored 14 of his points in the first half, which ended with the Mavs nursing a 65-43 lead. The 65 points were the most the Mavs have scored in any half this season and were more points than they scored during an 80-64 home loss to Memphis on Nov. 18.
In addition to Matthews, the Mavs got 18 points from Harrison Barnes, 17 points and eight assists from Deron Williams, and 10 points from Seth Curry. Also, rookie Dorian Finney-Smith continued to fill up the stat sheet as he finished with season highs in points (13) and rebounds (nine), and added three assists, two steals and a pair of blocked shots.
"He’s a defensive guy by nature,’’ Carlisle said of Finney-Smith. "He gets really upset when he gets beat on a play.
"It’s really easy to see that out there, and so he’s a very productive member of this team because he is so consistent on the defensive end. Right now he’s a three-and-D (3-pointers and defensive) guy that’s got to be able to make some simple plays, and tonight he did those things.’’
Justin Anderson also rebounded from some recent poor showings to tally 11 points and grab six boards.
"It wasn’t a tough stretch,’’ Carlisle said of the struggles Anderson experienced lately. "It’s the NBA and it’s a second-year guy, so there’s some ups and downs.
"I thought we needed his athleticism and energy in the game. I just had a good feeling about playing him tonight.’’
Anderson sure made Carlisle’s hunch pay off.
"Coach has continued to give me a chance and has really invested in me as a player and a person,’’ Anderson said. "He’s helped me so much on and off the court.
"He has taught me so much about the game and right now he’s teaching me about the post style offense. We’ve been watching film and he continues to build me up, so that means a lot.’’
Carlisle saw some of that build up by Anderson on full display against the Nuggets.
"He played solid, he played energetically, he made some really good basketball plays,’’ Carlisle said. "He got the ball in the hole a few times. His first half stretch particularly was very pivotal to us getting a good lead for halftime.’’
The Mavs led from wire-to-wire and increased their lead to as much as 82-54 late in the third quarter. It was their largest lead in any game this season.
Also, the Mavs shot a season-high 58.4 percent from the field and made 9-of-12 shots from 3-point range during one stretch after opening the game just 1-of-7 from downtown.
Carlisle was fully aware that the Nuggets were playing the last game of a season-high six-game road trip, which lasted 10 days. That’s one reason why the Mavs wanted to push the tempo, which led to them scoring a season-high 21 fast break points.
While the Mavs still have one of the worst records in the NBA, they know one day injured players J. J. Barea, Andrew Bogut and Nowitzki will return. And with that collection of talented players on board, the Mavs know that should put them squarely back in the playoff picture.
"We’ve just got to keep working and build off this win,’’ Anderson said. "We won’t go away.
"We are not going to get down. We are going to continue to build off this.’’