It’s obvious that the Dallas Mavericks are at that “by any means necessary” portion of their schedule.
That’s the only way to explain the jubilation the Mavericks displayed after they were finally able to subdue the lottery-bound Sacramento Kings 103-100 Saturday night at American Airlines Center.
After surviving that scare, the Mavericks ran their record to 44-30 and 4-3 on this eight-game homestand. But the Mavs know they have to be increasingly better by Tuesday when they conclude this homestand with a showdown against the Golden State Warriors.
Dallas is in a virtual tie with Memphis (43-29) for eighth place in the Western Conference, a half-game behind Phoenix.
Losers of nine of their last 12 games, the Kings gave the Mavericks all they could handle — and then some. Dallas led by 17 points in the second quarter, then had to rally from a late five-point deficit to beat a 25-48 Sacramento team that played Friday night in Oklahoma City.
Kings forward Travis Outlaw missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer. Otherwise, the Mavericks would have been playing their fourth overtime game on this homestand against a team that will be on vacation when the playoffs start in less than three weeks.
Outlaw got the chance to send the game into an extra session when Monta Ellis misfired on a pair of free-throw attempts with 6.8 seconds to go.
“We had our backs up against the wall again and we responded, so it was good,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “It was a good finish.
“We had to put a bunch of stops together in a row and we scored — getting in the bonus helped us. But it’s not a good way of doing business.”
The Mavericks ended the game on a 19-11 run after the Kings gave the sellout crowd of 20,210 some nervous moments when they forged ahead 89-84 with 4:05 remaining. But a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer by Shawn Marion pushed the Mavericks ahead 94-89 with 2:12 left.
An alley-oop dunk by Samuel Dalembert off a feed from Jose Calderon padded the Dallas lead to 100-93 with 43.8 seconds. But the Kings kept fighting until they finally had that shot to tie it at the end.
An end that didn’t sit too well with Carlisle.
“We’re struggling in some areas,” Carlisle said. “With eight games left what I would tell you — we’re 74 games into this — is there’s been so much of this [type of slippage] that unfortunately it’s been part of our DNA. And I just feel like we’re going to snap out of it.
“And I know that we have to. I’m a very positive thinker on this, and we’re going to do better on Tuesday.”
The Mavericks had a balanced scoring attack as Dirk Nowitzki led the way with 19 points and seven assists, Ellis finished with 17 points and six assists, Dalembert had 15 points, six rebounds and three blocks, and Marion collected 14 points and five boards.
Also for Dallas, Calderon tossed in 11 points and seven assists, and Vince Carter added 10 points.
The Mavs built a 50-33 lead with 2:09 left before halftime, but, as they’ve done so many times in the past, they managed to squander the lead and put the final outcome in jeopardy.
“We should take care of these games early,” Calderon said. “I think we did a really good job the first half.
“They got into their rhythm, kind of slow-motion rhythm, when we get into that it’s hard to make plays. We’ll take it, it’s a win, and we’ll be better on Tuesday.”
The play of Dalembert was crucial, because the Mavs needed a big body to handle DeMarcus Cousins, who was held to 17 points and seven rebounds.
“Every single game is hard, it’s like the playoffs,” Dalembert said. “That’s what we’re actually fighting for — for the playoffs, and we’re out of the playoffs at this point, so it’s very crucial.
“We’ve got to control what we can control, we’ve got to go out every night and fight and try to get everything we can get and give ourselves a chance.”