The way he was totally dialed in on the offensive end of the court, it was only fitting that Shawn Marion came up with the game’s top defensive play Monday night at the Target Center.
Marion scored a season-high 32 points and the Dallas Mavericks held on to defeat the hard-charging Minnesota Timberwolves 100-98 before 16,111 fans.
The victory enabled the Mavs to increase their record to 18-13 overall and 2-0 on this three-game road trip that concludes Wednesday against the Washington Wizards. But Monday’s win wasn’t salted away until Marion blocked Kevin Love’s 21-foot game-tying shot at the buzzer.
It also ended a ridiculously wild night that saw the Mavs build a 21-point lead with 9:48 remaining in the third quarter, only to see that lead totally vanish by the time the third quarter ended.
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But the Mavs regrouped, collected their wits and went on to beat a Minnesota team that they’ve already lost to twice this season.
“I was just taking what’s given to me,” said Marion, who made 14 of 19 shots. “We just look to penetrate and it just opens up things for me.
“We were moving the ball tonight and everybody was getting involved.”
Maybe, but no one was more involved than Marion, who also converted 4 of 6 shots from 3-point range.
Minnesota actually led 90-87 with 6:36 left in the game. Then, Vince Carter hit a pair of free throws, and Marion followed with back-to-back 3-pointers that put the Mavs up for good at 95-90 with 3:51 to go.
“Shawn was the key to the game, no question about it,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “If we’re giving out game balls that would be two ballgames in a row for him.
“His activity was great, we didn’t run one play for him, and he just produced.”
By halftime, when the Mavs led 62-43 — thanks to a shot at the buzzer by Marion — the 15-year veteran had already matched his season high of 21 points.
Then in the third quarter, the Mavs busted out to a 66-45 lead and had all the momentum going their way. However, the Mavs suddenly went cold and the Timberwolves heated up behind Kevin Love (36 points, 11 rebounds) and Corey Brewer (16 points).
By the time the third quarter was over, the hot-shooting Timberwolves had outscored the Mavs 38-19 and the game was tied at 81-all headed into the final 12 minutes.
Carlisle said: “They threw a great run at us in the third and early, and we withstood it and that’s what it’s about.”
The Mavs, who distributed 33 assists, needed a big night from Marion, because Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis were both struggling. Nowitzki scored 16 points, but was only 7-of-17 from the field.
Ellis tallied nine points and handed out 10 assists, yet was only 3-of-14 from the field.
“All the shots I was taking were great looks, they just weren’t falling,” Ellis said. “When it’s going down like that and it’s not going down, there are other parts to my game that I can go to for this team, so I just had to use that tonight.
“We’ve got so many weapons on this team. And [Marion] had a wonderful game.’’
At both ends of the floor. Especially at the end.