Even when Raymond Felton was patiently sitting game after game, the Dallas Mavericks always knew a day would come when he would lead them to victory.
That day came Friday night in Denver when Felton scored the game-winning basket with 1.5 seconds left as the Mavs outlasted the Nuggets in double overtime 144-143.
Felton’s teammates celebrated as though they were the one to make the winning shot. That’s how much respect, love and admiration they have for Felton, who missed the first 26 games of the season with a right ankle sprain and then served a four-game suspension handed down by the NBA after he pleaded guilty to a gun-possession charge.
“The big thing for me is just to get a win,” said Felton, trying to downplay his hero status. “It felt good to get that shot and see how my teammates are just excited and happy for me.
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“I think that was more appealing and more exciting for me to see those guys that excited for me.”
The Mavs (48-31) are hoping to see some more excitement from Felton when they play the Los Angeles Lakers (21-58) at 8:30 p.m. Sunday at Staples Center.
But what they saw Friday night was more than enough to convince them that Felton was more than just a throw-in when he was included in last June’s trade that brought Tyson Chandler back to Dallas from the New York Knicks.
“Ray, great poise there down the stretch, really playing the clock down and getting to the basket and putting the ball in,” forward Dirk Nowitzki said. “When his number is called he’s been great.
“Unfortunately, he missed a lot of time during the season with his ankle. But ever since he’s come back he’s been a true pro.”
In 26 games for the Mavs this season after spraining his ankle in the second preseason game against Oklahoma City, Felton has averages of 2.9 points and 1.1 assists per game. He’s averaged 7.9 minutes and has mainly played during mop-up duty.
What’s more, there were 22 other games in which Felton dressed but did not play because of a coach’s decision.
From a mental standpoint, it was as if all that has gone wrong this season for Felton came pouring out in those final frantic seconds against the Nuggets.
“It has been a bumpy year, getting injured early on in the season,” Felton said. “You’ve just got to be professional, man.
“You just got to stay the course, stay ready, keep working hard each and every day to do what I can, and when the opportunity comes you’ve got to take advantage of it. It came [Friday night], so I had to take advantage.”
Nowitzki on target
After struggling with his shot earlier this season, Nowitzki has settled into a nice groove.
Over the past six games, the 13-time All-Star has averaged 20 points and 5.5 rebounds and has made 42 of 80 shots (52.5 percent). Nowitzki equates his success to one important ingredient — hard work.
“I had a tough middle stretch there at the start of December-January,” Nowitkzi said. “I had to work hard to get back where it was, but I’ve had a great groove.
“I’ve been shooting the ball well in practices and in warm-ups, and I’m just trying to keep it going. I’m just trying to play better and efficient again for when the playoffs roll around.”
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760