DALLAS – For the Dallas Mavericks, it doesn’t get any better defensively than what they exhibited in the third quarter of Saturday’s 92-81 win over the Denver Nuggets at American Airlines Center.
In that dominant quarter the Mavs held the Nuggets to just five points on 2-of-19 shooting, and also forced Denver into committing nine turnovers. It was the fewest points the Mavs have ever allowed an opponent to score in any quarter in franchise history, eclipsing the seven points the Los Angeles Lakers scored against the Mavs in the third quarter on a Jan. 16, 2112 contest.
"Again, five points in the third quarter, and when you turn the ball over nine times in that quarter you wind up beating yourself,’’ Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. "But I thought they came out very aggressive in the third quarter and we did not match their physicality and it is unfortunate.’’
The Mavs (10-7) broke their three-game losing streak with the victory, and needed this shot in the arm before taking off on a two-game road trip that starts Monday against Rajon Rondo and the Sacramento Kings. And their ability to roll up their sleeves and get downright dirty after the Nuggets held a 52-48 lead at intermission enabled the Mavs to enjoy their fifth straight victory on their home court.
"We’ve had a spike of improvement in our defensive numbers,’’ coach Rick Carlisle said. "Wesley (Matthews) has been a significant part of that.
"When he walked out there on opening night and guarded (Markieff) Morris (of the Phoenix Suns), that sent a message to our team that he meant business, we were beginning a new ear for our team in terms of our attitude.’’
And that new beginning took full flight Saturday as the Nuggets started the third quarter 0-of-16 from the field and didn’t score until the 3:05 mark of that period. Overall, Dallas outscored Denver in the third quarter 25-5.
"It’s been great because (Matthews has) really mixed with DFirk (Nowitzki) and (Chandler) parsons,’’ Carlisle said. "He’s a great compliment to Deron Williams.
"Tonight, we had no one that could guard (Danilo) Gallinari except him. Wes was the guy who made it really hard on him.’’
Gallinari had 12 points on 4-of-5 shots in the first half, but went scoreless in the second half while missing all seven of his field goal attempts.
"Gallinari was close to really getting going in the first half,’’ Carlisle said. "Matthews had done a lot and in the process we’ve had to watch his minutes.
"It’s a unique situation.’’
While all of that uniqueness was transpiring defensively with Matthews, Carlisle was busy collecting his 629 career win to pass Nuggets legendary coach Doug Moe for 22nd place on the NBA’s all-time list for coaching victories.
The Mavs played without J. J. Barea, who will miss at least three games with a sprained right ankle. But Raymond Felton stepped up and scored 12 points off the bench and helped provide the defensive spark the Mavs needed.
"Losing J. J. is losing one of our aggressive guys on the ball and on screen-and-rolls and getting into the paint and scoring and making things happen,’’ Felton said. "That’s one of the things that I do as well.
"So me and Devin (Harris) just have to be a little bit more aggressive out there.’’
All in all, most of the Mavs were more aggressive Saturday night. Especially in the third quarter.
Dwain Price can be heard every Wednesday from 3-4 p.m. on dfwiradio.com