From where they’re sitting and for all the injuries they’ve encountered, the Dallas Mavericks believe they came out of the first quarter of the season with a respectable showing.
As they finished the first part of the NBA’s grueling 82-game schedule with Wednesday’s 100-97 win over the New Orleans Pelicans, the Mavs did so knowing the toughest part of their season is behind them.
For the Mavs, nothing was tougher than going through seven back-to-backs — the last of which occurred at New Orleans Arena — and getting severely pounded on the boards (58-38) by the Pelicans. But this time, it was the Mavs who made critical plays down the stretch to increase their record to 12-8, while improveing their road mark to 3-6.
“It could have gone either way, and it was a fun game to be a part of,” said forward Dirk Nowitzki, who had 21 points, seven rebounds, four blocks and two steals. “Finally, we were on the other end one time of execution, of getting some stops, of getting some big rebounds.”
In this opener of a four-game road trip that continues Saturday in Portland, the Mavs hung tight with the Pelicans until Nowitzki decided to do what he does best.
As he did Tuesday night against Charlotte when he took over — along with Monta Ellis — in the fourth quarter, Nowitzki seized the moment when the game was up for grabs. With the Pelicans clinging close to the Mavs, Nowitzki tallied 11 of his points in the fourth quarter, including Dallas’ final five.
Nowitzki’s three free throws in the final 32.3 seconds snapped a 97-97 tie and accounted for the game’s final points.
Ryan Anderson, who was 14 of 22 the past two games on 3-point attempts, missed one at the buzzer that would have sent the game into overtime.
Point guard Jose Calderon was solid again as he gutted his way to 12 points, four assists and two steals in 31 minutes while still trying to overcome a bone bruise to his right ankle. Calderon struggled early with his shooting, but buried a pair of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter that helped keep the Pelicans at bay.
“I told him in the fourth, I said, ‘You’re going to have a couple of daggers for us,’” Nowitzki said. “I just knew he was going to be open on the weak side a couple of times, and he stepped right into them.”
Calderon said his ankle is still a bit sore, but he wanted to give the Mavs what he could.
“They need me to be here ready to shoot the ball,” he said. “It was weird to be 1 of 8.
“I knew I was taking good looks. I just have to keep shooting and I know the team is looking for that.”
The Mavs also were looking for Vince Carter to step out of his slump and he obliged with 15 points.
“I was going to play through [the slump] regardless,” said Carter, who was 5 of 9 from the field. “If I’m open, I’m going to shoot the ball and I know it’s going to go back in and it’s going to help my team.”
Other than Nowitzki, Calderon and Carter, the Mavs also got 14 points and 10 assists from Ellis, 12 points from DeJuan Blair and 10 points from Shawn Marion.
“We needed great balance to win this game coming on the second night of a back-to-back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I thought we played hard enough to deserve to win and get a little bit of good luck at the end.”