Unlike teammate Dirk Nowitzki, Brandan Wright won’t finish his career being among the top 10 scorers in NBA history.
The Dallas Mavericks’ backup center, however, proved his value Saturday night against the Phoenix Suns in helping his team secure a spot in the playoffs.
Wright had a double-double with 12 points and a season-high 11 rebounds in a 101-98 victory. He also had three blocks in a season-high 32 minutes. And no block was bigger than the one Wright had when the game was still up for grabs.
With the Mavs clinging to a 100-98 lead, Suns guard Eric Bledsoe maneuvered through the lane and attempted a game-tying 2-footer. But, like toast popping out of a toaster, Wright sprung from the weak side and batted Bledsoe’s shot, and Shawn Marion grabbed the critical rebound.
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On Wright’s defensive performance, coach Rick Carlisle said: “It was huge on some of those plays in the fourth quarter. The block was huge. He had some other big rebounds in traffic.”
The Mavs had to turn to the slender Wright because starting center Samuel Dalembert was rendered ineffective against the Suns’ more mobile big men.
“We just turned it up,” Wright said of the Mavs’ stingy defense. “We knew these guys were potent offensively and we wanted to get in their legs a little bit.
“We played hard. No one would have guessed we could keep these guys under 100.”
The Suns had scored 123 and 107 points in their previous two meetings against Dallas this season. With Wright’s help, the Mavs held the Suns to 41 second-half points Saturday.
“If you defend you have a chance to win the game,” said Wright, a six-year veteran. “Giving up 120, 115, you know we can score a lot of points.
“But it’s a crapshoot if we can win those type of games.”
Wright reached a small milestone, passing 2,000 points for his career in Saturday’s victory.
Mavs seek 7, 50
The Mavericks have already made the playoffs.
But they want more.
They would prefer to play the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the playoffs rather than the San Antonio Spurs.
The Mavs (49-32) went 2-1 against the Thunder this season, but have lost nine in a row to the Spurs. Their last win over San Antonio was a 106-99 victory on March 17, 2012.
If the Memphis Grizzlies lose their game in Phoenix on Monday night, the Mavs will clinch the seventh seed. The Spurs, the top seed in the West, will play the eighth seed in the opening round.
Even if the Grizzlies defeat the Suns, the Mavs can clinch the seventh seed with a victory in Memphis in the regular-season finale on Wednesday.
It would be their 50th victory of the season.
“We’re happy to get in,” Wright said. “We don’t know who we will play, but I think we’re a dangerous team.
“We’ve got a lot of players capable of making plays, a lot of veterans over here who want to win. It will be exciting for us; we know we will be on the road [to start the opening round], but we are a better team on the road right now.”
Wednesday, the Mavs will be on the road, where they have won their past six games. That includes a 109-86 victory in Oklahoma City on March 16.
It was the worst loss of the season for the Thunder, who chose not to play point guard Russell Westbrook in that game against the Mavs because Oklahoma City played at Chicago the next day.