The Dallas Mavericks acquired shooting guard Wesley Matthews this past off-season because of his offensive prowess and because of his leadership abilities on and off the court.
They also acquired him because of his pit-bull mentality on defense.
All of those qualities were on display Wednesday when the Mavericks knocked off the Los Angeles Clippers 118-108 in what turned out to be Matthews’ best game since he was signed to a four-year, $70 million free-agent contract on July 9.
Matthews scored a season-high 25 points against the Clippers by hitting 9 of 13 shots. He also grabbed six rebounds. On the defensive end, Matthews limited Clippers All-Star point guard Chris Paul to just 11 points on 2-of-11 shooting.
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“I was glad that they put me on the point guard, that they put me on Chris Paul,” Matthews said. “As soon as he got it I was right next to him, so I know that gets me going.”
As soon as he got it I was right next to him, so I know that gets me going.
Mavericks guard Wesley Matthews on holding the Clippers’ Chris Paul to 11 points.
Matthews also scored the Mavericks’ first seven points.
“I think it’s a huge step for him personally,” point guard Deron Williams said. “Playing, first of all, and getting the go-ahead to play was great for him.
“And the way he came out and played both ends of the floor set the tone for us early. He got the first seven points and he did a good job containing CP.”
That defensive containment by Matthews is what the Mavericks (4-4) hope will carry over at 7:30 p.m. Friday when they host the Los Angeles Lakers (1-7) at American Airlines Center.
Matthews is still trying to get into game shape after he underwent surgery on March 11 on his torn left Achilles tendon. But coach Rick Carlisle wasted no time in comparing him to forward Dirk Nowitzki, who is the heart and soul of the team.
“He’s got an iron will, just like Dirk,” Carlisle said. “His contributions at the beginning and throughout the game, particularly when we got into some struggles in the fourth [quarter], were enormous.”
For his part, Matthews didn’t mind the “iron will” comment from Carlisle. He just amended it a bit.
“It’s a fearless mentality,” Matthews said. “I can’t keep missing shots. I can’t keep playing like before.
“It’s the confidence, that short memory, it’s cool to hear Coach. But really it’s on the defensive end where I got myself going.”
Wednesday also was the first time Matthews saids he felt a little bit like his former self. And that was particularly important because the Clippers are more talented than the New Orleans team that blew out the Mavericks 120-105 on Tuesday night.
“We played with a lot of determination and it was really controlled,” Matthews said. “I don’t think it was controlled against New Orleans, and it was a game we needed and we got.
“Coming off a back-to-back playing the way we did in New Orleans, we humbled ourselves.”
The Mavericks also fed off the noise and energy from the sellout crowd, who voiced their displeasure with DeAndre Jordan. The Clippers’ center agreed to sign a free-agent contract with the Mavericks this past summer, but infuriated management when he reneged on the commitment so he could return to the Clippers.
“The crowd was awesome [Wednesday] and we’ve got to bottle that up and remember that and take it everywhere,” Matthews said. “We don’t play every game at home.
“So we have to have that same intensity, same fire in ourselves when we go on the road.”