Friday was one of those bare-knuckle games where the Dallas Mavericks needed to grunt and grind their way to a victory.
No player exemplifies that style of play more than Zaza Pachulia.
That energized the building, it energized our team, and from there we played on a different level.
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle on Zaza Pachulia going coast-to-coast on a dunk
Lacking in athleticism but stacked with aggression, the 13-year veteran center powered his way to 15 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Mavs to a 102-93 triumph over the Utah Jazz before a sellout crowed of 20,028 at American Airlines Center.
It was the seventh double-double of the season for Pachulia, and the sixth straight win for the Mavs, who are 9-4 and brimming with confidence. The Jazz fell to 6-6.
The most entertaining play of the first half occurred with Pachulia smack in the middle of it. With the Mavs ahead 42-35, Pachulia grabbed an offensive rebound, muscled his way while dribbling through two Jazz players, and then hit a cutting Wesley Matthews for a layup.
After that, Pachulia grabbed a defensive rebound, ran the court and dunked to complete a 23-5 run and help Dallas pop out to a 46-35 lead with 2:33 remaining in the first half.
Pachulia was a primary reason why the Mavs held a 56-43 lead at intermission.
“I thought the play that changed the game was when Pachulia just went up and got one or two offensive rebounds in a crowd and we ended up scoring,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “That energized the building, it energized our team, and from there we played on a different level.”
Pachulia finished the first half with 10 points and nine rebounds, and was a primary reason why the Mavs held a 56-43 lead at intermission.
The Mavs mounted a 76-56 lead with 6:08 remaining in the third quarter. But the Jazz ended the quarter on a spirited 15-4 run to chop the Dallas lead to 80-71 entering the fourth period.
The driving 3-point play was probably the biggest basket of the game to that point.
Carlisle on Wesley Matthews’ 3-point play that gave the Mavericks a 98-89 lead with 1:30 remaining in the game.
A bucket by Gordon Hayward pushed the Jazz within 95-89 of the Mavs. But Matthews drove and scored, got fouled by Hayward and completed the 3-point play to give the Mavs some breathing room and a 98-89 lead with 1:30 remaining in the game.
“Look, we needed an experienced defender with size in there down the stretch, and he was due to hit a shot,” Carlisle said of Matthews, who was just 3-of-12 from the field. “The driving 3-point play was probably the biggest basket of the game to that point.”
Deron Williams led the Mavs with 23 points, eight assists and three steals. Dirk Nowitzki scored 19 points, and J.J. Barea (12 points) and Dwight Powell (11 points) brought some energy off the bench. Williams’ 3-pointer helped the Mavs to a 95-87 lead with two minutes left as he made sure his former team wasn’t going to get the best of his current team.
“He’s working extremely hard,” Carlisle said. “It’s been an unusual situation because of the training camp nagging injuries, but he’s doing the work and the dividends are showing.”
Utah hit 9 of 18 shots and zipped to a 26-21 lead behind Hayward’s eight points at the conclusion of the first quarter. The Mavs converted just 8 of 20 shots in the first period, and then got a little hotter in the second when they made 12 of 20 shots.
“The key was in the second quarter we buckled down,” Carlisle said. “In the first quarter they hit us for 13 points in the last six seconds of the clock. In the second quarter they only hit us for two points in the last six seconds, so we did a lot better job.”
This is a great win for us. Any time you come off the road you have a tendency to let down, and we didn’t let that happen.
Mavericks guard Deron Williams
The Mavs also did a better job of playing off Williams, who was 7-of-13 from the field.
“This is a great win for us,” Williams said. “Any time you come off the road you have a tendency to let down, and we didn’t let that happen.
“Our energy was great, especially down the stretch, and I thought we did a great job defensively.”
Right in the middle of the Mavs’ defensive surge was Pachulia, who collected two steals against the Jazz.
“Right now it’s hard getting him out of the game,” Carlisle said. “He’s that solid at both ends of the floor. He’s playing great basketball and he’s one of the most respected guys on our team.”