Considering everything that was at stake, including all the talk about how the Dallas Mavericks constantly get pushed around whenever they face a physical opponent, Wednesday turned into a banner night for the team from North Texas.
Nothing of the WWE variety took place at the FedEx Forum, but the Mavs more than held their own against Memphis’ imposing front line and got out of town with a 110-96 victory.
The win enabled the Mavs (29-21) to move two games ahead of the Grizzlies (26-22) in the race for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot.
The Mavs used a second-half blitz to take control of the game and beat a Memphis squad that was the hottest team in the NBA with wins in 10 of its previous 12 games. The Mavs improved to 3-0 against Memphis this year to clinch the season series with one game left.
“The first half, we didn’t defend very well, but we knew we were going to play better in the second half,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “Guys hung in and fought through a lot of things in the first half, and we showed a lot of guts. That’s a good team. This is a tough place to play; this is a heck of a win for us.”
With it, the Mavs moved eight games above .500 for the first time since late in the 2011-12 lockout-shortened season. It also gave them a boost of confidence because they’ve had trouble in this building in recent years.
“This is the kind of win that we’ve been trying to get to get some momentum,” Carlisle said. “We just got to keep it going. Four games to go before the [All-Star] break. Every game is crucial.”
The Mavs’ front wall of Dirk Nowitzki, Samuel Dalembert and Shawn Marion outplayed the Grizzlies’ massive front line of Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Tayshaun Prince. The Mavs’ trio combined for 48 points and 18 rebounds while the Grizzlies’ triplets countered with 37 points and 17 rebounds.
Nowitzki was efficient, finishing with 26 points and six boards on 10-of-14 shooting. Meanwhile, Dalembert registered his second double-double of the season as he racked up 14 points and 10 rebounds.
A 3-pointer by Nowitzki helped the Mavs erase a nine-point deficit and vault ahead for the first time at 59-58 early in the third period. Dalembert then powered inside and scored off an offensive rebound, which was a theme for him virtually all night.
Nowitzki popped in a couple of one-legged fallaway jumpers, and Vince Carter (13 points, seven assists) added a pair of buckets as the Mavs’ lead kept on growing until it reached 17 with under 3 minutes left.
“This is a very good win for us,” Nowitzki said. “I love that everybody contributed either on defense or rebounding or scoring, so this is a great team effort.”
The Mavs won the rebounding battle 35-32 and shot 53.8 percent from the field against a Memphis team that had held its previous 11 opponents to just 89 points per game.
The Mavs’ bench outscored the Memphis reserves 43-21 with Brandan Wright leading the way with 17 points. Marion, meanwhile, said his shoulder and ribs felt fine after he played his first game since missing the previous two.
“They came out aggressive and were hitting shots early, and we were playing catch-up,” said Marion, who finished with eight points in 33 minutes. “But we got a little momentum going, and we were able to get some stops when we needed to and we were able to get a good win in here.”