One half of solid defensive play Wednesday night was more than enough for the Dallas Mavericks to eke out a much-needed victory.
Playing for the first time in four nights, the Mavs finally stepped up their defensive game and held the Phoenix Suns to a mere 41 points in the second half. Still, the Mavs had to hold on and watch Markieff Morris miss a wide-open 3-pointer as time expired and Dallas escaped with a wild 107-104 victory over the Suns at American Airlines Center.
The win snapped a two-game losing streak for the Mavs, who also clinched the Western Conference’s No. 7 seed in the upcoming playoffs. Dallas (47-31) now opens a three-game road trip Friday in Denver before finishing the regular season at home on Wednesday against Portland.
Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavs’ long-time go-to player, nailed a huge 3-pointer which put Dallas ahead 106-102 with 22.8 seconds left. Nowitzki, who finished with 19 points, took a feed from Monta Ellis, who drove hard to the basket before dropping the pass off to the Mavs’ 17-year veteran.
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“I actually just missed two pretty looks before, and needless to say, I wasn’t really the first option on the next play,” said Nowitzki, who was 7-of-15 from the field. “But Monta made a heckva play.
“He dribbled in there hard, drew my defender and I found myself open again. I’ve been in this position for a lot of years and I just stepped into it and let it go and didn’t really think about it. I’m glad it went it, it kind of helped us get this win.”
Despite the crucial basket by Nowitzki, the Mavs had to sweat it out the rest of the way.
P.J. Tucker immediately scored inside for Phoenix, and Nowitzki split a pair of free throws, leaving the Mavs ahead by three with 16.1 seconds to go.
Markieff Morris and Eric Bledsoe each missed 3-pointers for the Suns, then Tucker inadvertently stepped out of bounds after snagging an offensive rebound with 4.8 ticks left. However, Rajon Rondo threw away the inbounds pass, and Morris found himself wide open on the left wing.
But Morris’ shot missed its mark, thus officially eliminating the Suns (39-40) from playoff contention.
After allowing the Suns 63 points in the first half - when Dallas trailed by four points - the Mavs limited Phoenix to just 41 points on 15-of-38 shots in the second half. Turning up the heat on defense was a point of emphasis for the Mavs at the half, who avoid a Suns’ sweep and finished the season series 1-3 against Phoenix.
Coach Rick Carlisle explained that his teams’ energy was better in the second half against the Suns, who scored just 69 points Tuesday night while losing by 27 points in Atlanta.
“We had defense in front of our bench, so I think the communication between the bench and the players helps a little bit when there’s proximity,” Carlisle said. “They played [Tuesday] night, so I think they may have worn down a little bit.
“We’d extend some zone and some man to try to disrupt their rhythm. We faced a lot of tough stretches, a lot of deficits, a lot of lead changes, a lot of ties, a playoff-caliber game in terms of the intensity and the physical nature of it and that’s good and it’s good to win.”
It was a win which was helped by the 30th double-double of the season from center Tyson Chandler, who chewed the Suns up for 12 points and 23 rebounds. Also, Ellis poured in 20 points on 10-of-21 shots, Devin Harris and Rondo each tallied 12 points, and Amar’e Stoudemire added 10 points and six boards in 14 minutes.
“Yeah, he played a huge game on the boards and he was a presence all night long,” Carlisle said of Chandler. “I thought there were a couple [blocked shots] where they blew the whistle, or I thought he may have been pretty good vertical.
“He’s one of the guys that is one of the heartbeats of the team. When he plays big like this, it really gives us a lift.”
Chandler converted 5-of-9 shots and also pulled down nine offensive rebounds - one more than the entire Phoenix squad.
“I just wanted to come out and be active and help my teammates,” Chandler said. “Help my teammates on the glass and get some extra shots.”
The Mavs played without small forward Chandler Parsons, who missed his second straight game with swelling in his right knee. The Mavs list Parsons as day-to-day and are hopeful he will be able to play at some point on the upcoming three-game road trip.
Former Mavs swingman Gerald Green scored 18 of his game-high 30 points in the first half for the Suns. Meanwhile, twin brothers Markieff Morris (19 points, six rebounds, seven assists) and Marcus Morris (12 points, 10 rebounds, two steals) were huge factors for Phoenix.
“With us it is about focus,” said Harris, who was 5-of-9 from the field in 18 minutes. “When we have our antennas up and we’re talking, we’re communicating, we do a very good job.
“Other times we get lost and give up big points. Tonight, in the second half we were focused, guy were talking out there and we did a better job.”
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760