DALLAS — Apparently the Dallas Mavericks prefer living on the edge, when the pressure is packed and the temperature is at its hottest.
That was the case again Sunday night when the Mavs again didn’t let the pressure get to them against the team with the NBA’s best record. Dallas beat the Indiana Pacers 105-94 in front of a full house of 20,361 fans at American Airlines Center.
After getting embarrassed in Denver on Wednesday, this was the second straight game in which the Mavs have beaten a quality opponent. On Friday, Dallas held off a furious comeback to defeat the Portland Trail Blazers 103-98.
Sunday’s victory increased the Mavs’ record to 38-26 and set up a huge showdown in Oakland on Tuesday against the Golden State Warriors, who are right ahead of the Mavs in the Western Conference standings.
The Mavs won the season series against Indiana 2-0 while proving that they can match wits against some of the best teams the NBA has to offer. Indiana lost its fourth straight.
“We’ve responded well to our debacle on Wednesday night,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “That was very disappointing.
“We put up very little resistance against Denver. If we play like that we collectively will get our butts kicked by [Disney Channel actress] Bella Thorne in an arm-wrestling contest.”
Fortunately for the Mavs, they didn’t have to arm-wrestle the Pacers, or Bella Thorne. But they were able to dominate Indiana in bench-scoring 41-4, and also beat them on the boards 42-41.
On a night when Dirk Nowitzki struggled (14 points on 3-of-14 shooting), Devin Harris and Monta Ellis (20 points, eight rebounds) took over down the stretch and refused to let the Mavs lose.
After the Mavs were clinging to an 89-87 lead, Harris and Ellis combined to score 14 of the team’s last 16 points in the final 4:17.
Harris got it going with a 3-point play after a steal by Ellis. Later, Ellis buried a 20-footer near the right side of the key and a 19-foot fadeaway from the corner as the Mavs’ lead increased to 102-92 with 56.9 seconds left.
“We were getting a little bit of space on our screen, so it created a little separation,” said Harris, who poured in a season-high 20 points and added four steals. “Myself and Monta were able to get to the paint and score or create opportunities for other people.
The Mavs got off to another fast start and led 35-18 with 9:53 remaining before intermission. But just like they did Friday when they blew a 30-point lead to Portland, the Mavs couldn’t stand prosperity.
Paul George (27 points, 11 rebounds) heated up with nine quick points and the Pacers erased a 48-45 halftime deficit to take a 55-50 lead a little over three minutes into the second half. But George picked up his fourth foul and went to the bench for nearly seven minutes.
The Mavs took off from there and built a 73-62 lead after Harris drilled consecutive 3-pointers late in the third period.
“It was good to see a couple [of shots] go in,” said Harris, who was just 8-of-33 from the field in the previous six games. “I feel like I’ve got a good feel — I’ve just got to keep it going.”
After losing three straight, they’ve got a good feel. The Mavs just have to keep it going — especially in that titanic matchup Tuesday against the Warriors.