Not only did the Dallas Mavericks start off the new year in terrific fashion Wednesday night at the Verizon Center, but they also did so in a most unconventional way.
The Mavs shot only 38.5 percent, were outrebounded again and tied their season low in points. But they were able to establish enough consistency during the game’s critical moments while also putting up a strong defensive front to triumph over the Washington Wizards 87-78.
“It was an ugly game,” forward Dirk Nowitzki said. “We set the NBA back for a couple of years, that’s for sure.”
The victory enabled the Mavs (19-13) to vault six games over .500 for the first time since finishing the 2011-12 lockout season with a 36-30 record. Also, coupled with wins in Chicago and Minnesota, this is the first time the Mavs swept a three-game road trip since they beat Washington (105-99), Toronto (114-96) and Philadelphia (101-93) from Feb. 26-Mar. 1, 2011.
Dallas opens a three-game homestand Friday against the Los Angeles Clippers. And the Mavs should be feeling pretty good about themselves after they battled back from an eight-point second-half deficit to silence the Wizards (14-15).
Monta Ellis tallied eight of Dallas’ final 10 points in the game’s last 2:14 — he went 6-for-6 from the free-throw line in that span — that helped steady the Mavs’ rocky offense. Meanwhile, the Mavs forced 19 turnovers and limited the Wizards to 37.5 percent shooting in a game that wasn’t easy on the eyes.
“It was such a competitive game that whoever won was going to be the survivor, and that’s where we were,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “We just hung in.
“When we got down eight in the second half, it didn’t look great. But we were able to get a couple of buckets, get the momentum back and hang in.”
And the Mavs hung in despite a subpar game from Nowitzki, who was just 3-of-14 from the field and finished with nine points and five rebounds. Nowitzki, though, limped off the court less than a minute into the game when he rolled his left ankle after stepping on the foot of Wizards guard Bradley Beal.
“I just walked to the back, got it re-taped, walked it off a little bit, popped some pills and came back out and tried to finish the game,” Nowitzki said. “It was obvious that I wasn’t moving well.
“I didn’t get any elevation on my jumper, but I was an expensive decoy today. I was trying to just spread the floor for the guys and if I had a shot, shoot it, if not, move it.”
Nowitzki was back on the court with 7:20 remaining in the first quarter, but he didn’t have it offensively. In the meantime, Ellis (23 points), Vince Carter (13 points), Jose Calderon (11 points) and Brandan Wright (10 points) carried the scoring load.
Still, the Wizards led 42-39 at the half and 51-43 with 7:39 left in the third quarter as the game moved along at a turtle’s pace. Even Shawn Marion joked about the poor offensive production.
“Maybe because it was New Year’s,” he said. “Apparently we had a little bit too much fun [Tuesday] night.”
The Mavs also had a lot of fun playing defense. After the Wizards went up 74-70 with 4:59 left in the game, the Mavs limited Washington to only a John Wall dunk and a pair of free throws by Wall as Dallas ended the game on a blistering 17-4 run.
“We played great team defense at the end,” Ellis said. “We came out with some big rebounds and we hit shots on the other end.
“The biggest thing is that we came out with a win.”
No matter how ugly the game went.