No Dirk Nowitzki. No Rick Carlisle.
Even without their superstar and head coach, the Dallas Mavericks had more than enough power to handle the hapless Milwaukee Bucks. With Brandan Wright leading the charge in his first game of the season, the Mavs opened a three-game homestand Saturday by upending the Bucks 106-93 at American Airlines Center.
Wright scored a game-high 19 points and pulled down six rebounds in his first game back after suffering a small non-displaced fracture to his left shoulder during an Oct. 8 practice. In a way, it was as if Wright never left. He converted 9 of 10 shots and looked comfortable around the basket.
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“I felt fine,” Wright said. “The guys have been counting on me and really expecting me to come out here and help this team.”
Nowitzki and Carlisle both missed Saturday’s game with illnesses. But in the end, it was the Mavs who made the Bucks sick after Dallas built a 90-56 lead late in the third quarter.
“The starters set the tone,” said assistant coach Monte Mathis, who ran the team in Carlisle’s absence. “We really moved the ball on offense and ... played within the system.”
The game got a little hairy when the Bucks used a 17-2 run to claw within 99-84 with 4:06 left. But the Mavs (14-10) settled down and continued to whack away against the Bucks, who are 5-19 and owners of the NBA’s worst record.
“It got a little tight, but we got Vince [Carter] back in there at the end to settle the waters a little bit,” Mathis said. “It worked out.”
The Mavs got off to a terrific start when point guard Jose Calderon buried 4 of 5 early 3-pointers to help Dallas build a 38-26 lead after the first quarter. Dallas’ lead swelled to 59-41 at intermission and 93-61 after three periods.
The Mavs got 15 points and a season-high nine assists from Carter, 13 points and 12 rebounds from Shawn Marion, and 11 points and nine boards from DeJuan Blair.
Meanwhile, Wright played 19 minutes and looked very fresh on a night ex-starting center Samuel Dalembert was the only available player on either team who did not play — because of a coach’s decision.
“Going into it, it wasn’t set that Sam wasn’t going to play, but it ended up that way,” Mathis said. “Brandan did a good job, Sarge [Bernard James] did a good job.”
Wright was so efficient, no one even noticed Nowitzki wasn’t in uniform.
“Physically, my body felt good,” Wright said. “I’ve still got a ways to go to get in the type of shape I need to get in so I can play bigger minutes, but it’s going to come.”