DALLAS – Justin Anderson was in total lockdown mode Wednesday night at American Airlines Center.
So much so that when the Dallas Mavericks’ second-year forward saw teammate Dorian Finney-Smith walking to the scorer’s table – presumably to take his place – with under four minutes remaining in rhe game against the New York Knicks, Anderson turned to coach Rick Carlisle and shouted: "No coach. I’m good.’’
Anderson wanted to continue with the stern challenge of trying to slow down Knicks perennial All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony. And that’s precisely what transpired as the Mavs defeated the Knicks, 103-95, and won for the fifth time in their last seven games.
Although Anthony torched the Mavs for 30 points, he went scoreless in the fourth quarter, primarily while being guarded by Anderson.
"Every possession he tries to find your body, and he is a great player,’’ Anderson said of Anthony. "In the first half he had me a little discouraged – just some tough shots (Anthony made).
"But I stayed with it and my teammates had my back.’’
Anthony, who was 13-of-24 from the field overall, got off just two shots and turned the ball over twice during the eight minutes that he played in the fourth quarter.
The Mavs originally wanted Wesley Matthews to be the player shadowing Anthony. But he strained his right hip during Sunday’s 122-73 win over the Los Angeles Lakers and missed the game against the Knicks, and will also miss Thursday’s contest at Oklahoma City.
That left the heavy lifting to players like rookie Dorian Finney-Smith and Anderson.
"He really took a quantum leap in the second half,’’ Carlisle said of Anderson. "Not coincidentally, Wes Matthews was in his ear during the timeouts helping him, so it was big.’’
Anthony misfired on a 3-point field goal with 26.8 seconds left and the Mavs up 101-95. Anderson then closed out the scoring with a pair of free throws with just 16.8 seconds to go.
"He was aggressive,’’ Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said of Anderson. "He’s a big, strong player that plays with his aggressiveness.
"He kept (Anthony) from getting anything easy, bodied him and made it tough. To his credit he did a good job defensively.’’
Anthony also credited Anderson for his superb defense.
"Anderson is a guy who plays tough -- a physical guy,’’ Anthony said. "I thought we kind of let our foot off the gas a little bit.
"Offensively, we weren’t as aggressive as we were in the previous three quarters. Defensively, they got it going, they got some momentum, got some turnovers going the other way. I think that’s where they got their momentum from. I don’t think it was half-court defense or anything like that they were doing.’’
Anderson made 3-of-8 shots and also produced threes steals. This comes on the heels of the career-high tying 19 points he scored during Sunday’s victory over the Lakers.
"In the second half I asked coach for another shot at it,’’ Anderson said. "And I am thankful he gave me that opportunity.’’
Point guard Pierre Jackson also received a much-needed opportunity. After Deron Williams suffered a sprained left great toe in the first half and left for good, Jackson stepped in and played 24 precious minutes and manufactured four points and three assists.
More than anything, the floor leadership Jackson displayed is what was key for the Mavs.
"Jackson did a solid job starting the second half,’’ Carlisle said. "When he started to attack the basket vertically instead of kind of horizontally, he made some game-changing plays.’’
Harrison Barnes (23 points), Seth Curry (20 points) and Dirk Nowitzki (19 points) were the major scorers for the Mavs, who improved to 16-29.
Also, the Mavs shot 47 percent form the field and held the Knicks to 42.4 percent shooting. And for one of the rare times, the Mavs attempted more free throws than their opponent – 24 to 12.
But the big story was the Mavs’ ability to keep Anthony scoreless in the fourth quarter.
"Anderson really stepped up in the second half, and really guarded the heck out of Anthony,’’ Carlisle said. "Carmelo is a great player, and Anderson did a good job of slowing him down and making his catches tougher.’’