The Dallas Mavericks were due a game like this.
Well, at least a first half like this.
To be fair, so to were the Washington Wizards, who also stumbled into Tuesday having won just two of their first nine games.
But Dallas, fresh off a couple of high-intensity practices following a lackluster effort against New York on Friday, put forth the effort defensively that head coach Rick Carlisle has been yearning, and it translated into plenty of good offensively.
Luka Doncic had a team-high 23 points, Wesley Matthews added 22, and Harrison Barnes and Dennis Smith Jr. each had 19 in a 119-100 victory over the lowly Wizards (2-8) at the American Airlines Center.
“You know this season, it’s been tough for us,” said Barnes, who recorded his first double-double of the season with his 19 points and a career-high-tying 12 rebounds. “We’ve definitely had a lot of opportunities where games were close. But to be able to come out here tonight and put together 48 minutes and finally get a win, it feels pretty good.”
Get this: Dallas even held a lead at the end of the first quarter, which has been as rare as a non-rainy day in DFW this season. That 35-24 lead set the tone early and carried through the rest of the way to help the Mavs snap a six-game losing streak.
“I thought everyone was much-improved tonight,” Carlisle said. “The starters got us off to a great start defensively and offensively. The bench picked us up.”
In the first half alone, Dallas was 13-of-23 from beyond the arc and shot 50 percent from the floor (23-of-46). Matthews shot so many imaginary arrows into the air after his five first-half 3-pointers, it would have made cupid blush.
Matthews had 17 points in the first half alone, while Doncic and DSJ, who had a team-high seven assists, each had 13.
“He was big with shooting, with leadership, with ball movement,” Carlisle said of Matthews. “He’s a guy that gets us going with his grit, leadership and his will to win. i love when he gets going offensively. It’s fun to watch.”
Washington matched Dallas’ first half intensity to start the second half and used a 13-4 run to momentarily get back into striking distance. Dallas started the half 0-for-5 with four turnovers. Not exactly ideal.
“We got off to a slow start in the second half. They made a run. We showed a lot of resilience. Stuck together, stayed real positive and then made a push at the end. The game had everything to test the team’s will and togetherness. We needed it. We needed it.”
The Mavs had seven turnovers in the quarter, one more than the entire first half, which Washington parlayed into a 29-17 frame and only an 87-78 deficit heading into the fourth.
The Wizards got to within 97-91 with 3-pointer from John Wall, who had a game-high 24 points and 10 assists, with 7:02 left, but four straight acrobatic points by DeAndre Jordan pushed the lead to 10 with under 5 minutes to go. Dallas ended the game on a 22-9 run.
“Resilience. Experience,” Carlisle said when asked what the key was to holding off Washington late. “Guys have been through some of this stuff together now and that’s meaningful. Also, an understanding that this has to start defensively. Holding off their run started with getting stops on defense, and then aggressive plays offensively.
“It’s been a long time since we won a game,” Carlisle said. “It feels good to win. Quick turnaround though. Not much rest here.”
Dallas (3-7) travels to Utah for an 8 p.m. tip on Wednesday before returning to the AAC on Saturday to host Russell Westbrook and Co.