It was certainly no masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination. And probably nothing that anyone associated with the Dallas Mavericks will be repeating in glowing terms anywhere down the line.
But the Mavs did manage to squeeze enough out of their winded veterans Wednesday night to eke out a hard-fought 109-102 overtime win against the New York Knicks before a sellout crowd of 20,362 at American Airlines Center.
By all accounts, this was a must-win game for the Mavs, who snapped a two-game losing streak, ran their record to 11-5 and now embark on a four-game road trip which starts Friday at Eastern Conference-leading Toronto. The Knicks, though, went down swinging and gave the Mavs all sorts of fits before the home team was able to survive this battle royal.
“We’re not playing particularly great basketball, but tonight we showed some guts,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “It’s good to get back on the winning track at least for tonight.
“And we look forward to a little bit of rest tomorrow, and travel – a long travel day – and we got to get ready for Toronto, who is another really good team.”
Tyson Chandler was certainly ready to play the Knicks – the team he spent the last three seasons with and the team that partially blamed him for last season’s 37-45 record. Chandler finished Wednesday’s contest with season highs in points (17), rebounds (25) and minutes (43).
However, Chandler acknowledged that there was no correlation between his dominant performance and who the Mavs were playing.
“To be honest, it’s been more important for the last couple of games that we just get a win,” said Chandler, who was 7-of-12 from the field. “Coming out of the last two games getting the loss, tonight was really special because I wanted to get us back going and try to get a win.”
The win came for the Mavs, but it was a surprising struggle since the Knicks (4-12) were without top scorer Carmelo Anthony, who has back spasms.
Devin Harris split a pair of free throws with 7.9 second remaining in regulation, leaving the door open for J.R. Smith to bury a high-arching 23-footer over the outstretched hands of Al-Farouq Aminu with 0.9 seconds left and send the game into overtime tied at 95.
A dunk by Chandler, after Monta Ellis saved the ball from going out of bounds, gave Dallas a 101-99 lead. Shortly thereafter, Chandler Parsons (13 points) dove and stripped Jose Calderon in the backcourt.
That led to a jumper by Dirk Nowitzki and a 103-99 lead with 56 seconds remaining.
“Just vintage Nowitzki” Carlisle said. “And he was struggling from three as well.
“But it was his will that kind of carried us.”
A bad pass by Calderon, a free throw by J.J. Barea, and two charity tosses from Devin Harris padded the Dallas cushion to 106-99 with just 12.8 seconds left in a long and nearly gloomy night for the Mavs.
Gloomy because without Anthony, the Mavs know this should have been an easier night. But they shot just 40 percent from the field and missed 27 of 31 shots from 3-point range while looking jittery on offense.
“We’re stepping in [the 3-pointers] aggressively,” said Nowitzki, who poured in a season-high 30 points, but converted just 1 of 8 3-pointers. “I don’t think we’re hoisting a bunch of bad shots.
“Maybe sometimes when you feel like the rhythm isn’t quite there, maybe show and go a little bit and maybe reduce the amount of 3s a little bit. We’re still a good-shooting team and we’re going to keep stepping into them when they’re there on the weak side.”
The Knicks jumped to a 24-19 lead after the first quarter only to see the Mavs climb ahead 46-42 at the half. With Calderon – who went to the Knicks over the summer in the trade that involved Chandler – firing darts from 3-point range, New York was able to tote a 73-71 lead into the topsy-turvy fourth quarter.
Calderon made 7-of-9 shots from beyond the 3-point arc and finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds, and Smith added 15 points for the Knicks.
Monta Ellis fought both shooting woes and foul difficulties. In fact, Ellis – who was 3-of-13 from the field –had just two points before rattling off six in a row which gave Dallas an 84-83 lead with 4:03 to go. His eight points was the first time this season he had not scored at least 14 in a game.
“Monta Ellis got going in the fourth quarter during a period where we really needed it,” Carlisle said. “He was the one that got us back above water.”
It was a ditch difficult for the Mavs to swim out of, even with the Knicks minus Anthony.
“I’m not saying this in a negative way, but sometime you play down to the competition,” Chandler said. “You look at a roster and you see guys out and you kind of come in and you take a breath.
“We can’t do that. It’s got to be about us. It can’t be about the opponent.”
The Knicks had lost 10 of 12 games coming in. But they were step-for-step with the Mavs, thanks to a 14-of-28 outburst from 3-point range.
“It was a blood and guts type of game,” Carlisle said. “They were throwing in some really difficult shots, but this is the NBA and these are NBA players and guys do that.
“We didn’t hang our heads. We kept battling, kept fighting and that’s what you’ve got to do. We’re fortunate to win, but I thought we fought hard and deserved to win.”